Category Archives: enterprise social media

William Gibson’s Dual Dystopias

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

William Gibson is one of my very favorite authors. My major beef with him is that he should write more books. I’ve waited for six years for the follow up to this book (Agency)!

That’s forgivable, because he writes such great books. However, another beef I have with him is that he’s developed, especially with this book and its followup, an annoying tendency to drop portions of sentences, most notably the subject in dialogs. Often you find yourself wondering what is going on. He also begins chapters with personal pronouns, like “she,” leaving the reader to have to read further to figure out which of the many female characters he’s talking about. This is made more complicated by the two timelines in the book. You are often momentarily confused as to whether the chapter is set in the future or the past.

I originally read this book when it was released in 2014. I just finished re-reading it not because I loved it so much–I do love it–but because the followup book relies a lot on what happens in this book. The annoying tendency to drop portions of sentences is even more annoying in the second book, BTW. By the time I was a third through Agency, I was so confused I decided I needed to re-read The Peripheral. I’m now starting Agency over again.

The story of The Peripheral is intriguing. An advanced society has found a way to intervene in the past, creating what is called a stub–a fork in time that diverges from the timeline of the future society. People in the future can communicate with people in the stub, and vice versa, which creates conflict that places lives in each era at risk.

Gibson is a master at creating worlds, and every bit of the two worlds in this book is plausible and intriguing. The fact that both worlds are dystopian enables Gibson to take current trends to their logical limits to the point that identity and humanity become fungible.

I strongly recommend this book even though you might find yourself re-reading passages on a regular basis. Gibson’s vision of the possible futures is spot on, as usual, and he makes us care about his characters’ struggles in dealing with the lunacy of their worlds.

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Your Salesforce is Not Ready to do Social Selling

You say you’re interested in this concept you’re hearing so much about: social selling.

You may even have invested some money in social selling Webinars or in actual training.

But your salesforce is not ready to do social selling.

Not all of them.

Think of how many times you’ve sent your salespeople to training. CRM training. Sales 2.0 training. SPIN Selling.

How much of this training did your sales folks actually absorb? How much did they implement? And how much success did it generate? We’re thinking not much.

Why? Because sales people hate sales training. If they are honest with you, they’ll tell you they’d much rather have you pull out their fingernails with rusty pliers while their eyes are gouged out by rabid pigeons than go to a sales seminar. And the main reason they think this way is that most of them – not all to be sure – think what they’re doing is just fine, works as it always has, and always will. They can do 40 dials and 40 emails a day and like magic, some sales fall out the bottom of the funnel.

If you’re honest with yourself, though, you know that smiling and dialing is becoming increasingly less effective.

So on the subject of social selling, a groundbreaking leap forward that actually works, 75 percent of your sales staff either won’t change or hates the idea. Of the other 25 percent, about half can pick it right up and start seeing results in 90 days.

But you have two problems: You don’t know who is in which group; who are the laggards and who are the leaders who are ready to embrace social selling.

So you train them all. What a waste. You’re throwing away 75 percent of your training dollars, if you’re lucky.

So what’s the solution? Do a social selling readiness assessment first. Don’t bother Googling it. You’ll find only a few companies even talking about it, and even fewer equipped to help you execute an assessment.

Here’s how you can save 35 percent of the cost of a social selling training plan. First, do a social selling readiness assessment (coincidentally, we can help with that.) Figure out who the 25 percent are. Do some further analysis to find the 12 percent who are really, really ready to get moving on social selling. (Hint: they’re probably already among your top performers.)

Then train the 12 percent on social selling techniques. Give them plenty of space and time to start producing results. It will take at least 90 days, perhaps longer. Be patient. You may need to mentor and train them a bit more along the way.

Once this group starts generating impressive results with social selling, you can expect to see increases in revenue productivity per sales rep of 17 percent or more, according to a CSO Insights study. This is sure to pique the interest of the other portion of the 25 percent. Train them next.

Once the 75 percent see the success of these first cohorts, their attitudes toward social selling will change. Assess their willingness to now embrace social selling. Perhaps half or maybe even more will be interested and ready to change. Train them, but be prepared for more mentoring and refreshers than with the first groups.

Fire the rest and replace them with (fewer) social sellers.

So we just saved you a bundle. Contact us for more details.


Branding in the Social Media Age – The Death of the Brand

Edina Note: this is an update of a 2010 update of an original post from 2001 called Breaking the Diamond: The Death of Brand.

When I first wrote this article back in 2001, it was titled, Breaking the Diamond: The Death of Brand, and eCommerce was a relatively new thing. Google was a couple of years old; Amazon was five, but not nearly the dominant giant it is today. Other current trends and concepts such as Web 2.0, social networking, blogging, wikis, and instant messaging were just ideas, if that.

 Some rights reserved by Paul Townsend
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Some rights reserved by Paul Townsend

Back in 2001, I said: “Imagine a day, however, when it is possible to evaluate all these product qualities instantly, objectively, and in real time. Would that not reduce our dependence on brand? And at the same time, would that not reduce the effectiveness of advertising?”

That day arrived a while ago, and brand marketers are still dealing with its aftermath. Their world is rapidly changing around them, and many still cling to a concept that is becoming less and less relevant: brand positioning.

OK, the original title of this post was a bit of hyperbole, but it’s not an unthinkable concept. Of course, there will always be brands, but the days of brand owners thinking they can control what we think about a brand may be ending.

The Brand Diamond

Simon Knox said, way back in 1996[i], “In the future, it is not going to be enough simply to consider how responsive each customer group is to your brand, you will need to know how responsive your company can or should be in meeting the total needs of customers who buy from across the categories in which you compete.” Sounds a bit like a prescription for marketing via social media, doesn’t it?

Knox continues: “In traditional consumer marketing, the advantages enjoyed by a brand with strong customer loyalty include ability to maintain premium pricing, greater bargaining power with channels of distribution, reduced selling costs, a strong barrier to potential new entries into the product/service category, and synergistic advantages of brand extensions to related product/service categories (Reichfeld, 1996).”

Five years after Knox, authors Gommans, Krishnan, and Scheffold[ii] recognized that brand loyalty was undergoing a bit of a sea change, and discussed a replacement concept: e-loyalty, which leads to behavioral loyalty, the tendency to keep buying a brand:

As extensively discussed in Schefter and Reichheld (2000), e-loyalty is all about quality customer support, on-time delivery, compelling product presentations, convenient and reasonably priced shipping and handling, and clear and trustworthy privacy policies. [. . .] A satisfied customer tends to be more loyal to a brand/store over time than a customer whose purchase is caused by other reasons such as time restrictions and information deficits. The Internet brings this phenomenon further to the surface since a customer is able to collect a large amount of relevant information about a product/store in an adequate amount of time, which surely influences the buying decision to a great extent. In other words, behavioral loyalty is much more complex and harder to achieve in the espace than in the real world, where the customer often has to decide with limited information.

Traditional brands with high brand loyalty have enjoyed a certain degree of immunity from price-based competition and brand switching (Dowling & Uncles, 1997). In e-markets, however, this immunity is substantially diminished due to how easy price comparing among shopping agents is (Turban et al., 2000) and due to the fact that competition is just one click away.

I updated this post  in 2010 and said, “Nine years later it is becoming clearer that behavioral brand loyalty is not only difficult to maintain online, but it’s getting more difficult to maintain offline as well. The plethora of online information Gommans, et al. referred to now includes a tremendous wealth of customer reviews, opinions, diatribes, blogs, and wikis such that the potential customer of virtually any product or service can spend days absorbing it all.”

Seven years after that, we’re drowning in content. Social selling is a thing. Brands more and more are looking for a way to hold on to and grow their franchises in a world with significantly more choices than the world of 2001 and even 2010

Marketers are no longer oblivious to this revolution in branding, and brand position. The change has been obvious since 2005, when Nick Wreden, managing director of FusionBrand, said in an article[iii] , “The number of branding failures, many based on ‘positioning,’ exceeds 90%, according to the consultancies Ernst & Young and McKinsey & Co.” The old stuff may be losing effectiveness.

The occasion was McDonald’s announcement in 2005 that it was abandoning brand positioning, which basically is a way that a company seeks to control how their brand is perceived by consumers by pushing messages at them through traditional media. At the time, Larry Light, McDonald’s chief global marketing officer, said, “Identifying one brand position, communicating it in a repetitive manner is old-fashioned, out of date, out of touch.” Light stated his position even more strongly, heralding “the end of brand positioning as we know it,” calling it “marketing suicide.”

Light was right back then, and even more right 12 years later, when brand perception is ever-more deeply affected by social media. When the millions have found their voices – online – it’s hard to compete with push branding messages delivered via conventional media, or frankly, even via social or other online media. Add in the detrimental effect of commercial-skipping digital video recorders, the move to mobile as the primary content delivery device, and YouTube as the Millennials’ jukebox , and McDonald’s move back then seems even more prescient.

Even five years ago, the strength of social to affect consumer and business purchase was apparent. A  2012 survey by BzzAgent examined the potential long term effects social media marketing can have on purchase intent. The company examined consumer purchase intent before and even a full year after the social media campaigns ended.  They found  that 61 percent of survey respondents were more likely to make a purchase a  year after a social media campaign.

Is that a brand effect or a social media effect?

In 2017, more and more brands have learned the premise of my first book series, Be A Person, and are turning to influencers as a way to increase the power of their marketing.  On the business-to-business side, social selling is cresting the Peak of Inflated Expectation and heading for the Trough of Disillusionment.

What is Killing the Brand

So what is killing the brand as we knew it? A combination of two disruptive technologies: electronic commerce and social media. Wreden says, “[. . .] consumers now buy based on research and personal value, not on [how] companies seek to ‘position’ their products.” And you know it’s true.

A great example of this one-two punch to branding’s breadbasket is my recent experience buying a desktop PC. Yes, I know. How 2010. But I basically needed a server to automatically back up all my stuff and support two 23 -inch monitors and my appetite for having dozens of Chrome tabs open at a time.

So I was in the market for a powerful desktop. I knew what I wanted, based on online research and a few visits to local computer stores. Many “brand” companies build machines in this class, and while researching HP, Dell, Toshiba, and Lenovo, I read every review I could. I found a refurbished HP that got great reviews for a price I liked and I bought it. This experience was different from my purchase of the machine that preceded it, in 2010, a laptop.

I had done the same amount of research as for the desktop, and was researching an HP laptop, which was my current frontrunner. I was almost all set to buy. But I saw one reviewer who said, “If you really want performance, get an ASUS laptop.” Seven years ago, ASUS wasn’t really in the conversation for most people. I had primarily heard of them because they make motherboards. But back then, they were not a “brand” company; they spent very little to nothing on marketing or brand positioning.

While researching the recommended laptop, I found a gamer’s laptop forum. Early on in one ASUS thread, forum participants were eagerly anticipating the release of ASUS’ N61J, which had actually occurred a few days prior to my search. As I read through the thread, I heard lots of stories about, and respect for ASUS by gamers, who arguably the most discerning of laptop owners. They were sure it was going to be a hot laptop, and, further down in the thread, when one of them actually bought one, the clamor for a review and pictures was amazing.

So I found a gamer-oriented online store in Nebraska, ordered mine, and it was everything the gamers said it would be, until it gave up the ghost last year.

Similar scenarios are playing out all over the Web right now. Big and small brands are being evaluated by actual consumers, and more and more, the little guys are winning.

The revolution against brand is nowhere near over, but, according to Wreden, “Even a top executive at advertising giant Leo Burnett is willing to stand before his CEO peers and admit, ‘the old ways of marketing are not working anymore.'”

Lack of Metrics One of the Culprits

In a very ironic trick, brand positioning has partly been done in by a lack of measurement. I say ironic, because one of the very first objections we get when pitching enterprise social media strategy engagements is, “How can we measure it?”

Social media is exponentially easier to measure than your typical brand marketing effort. Even in Postioning, one of the books that started it all 27 years ago, authors Jack Trout and Al Ries stated “mind share is more important than market share.” The authors further equated brand positioning with mind share in this passage: “Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.” But how do you measure mind share?

Today, you increasingly can. Among the concepts we teach in our social media training are Net Promoter Score and Share of Conversation. Either  is more important and can be more accurate than many other standard marketing metrics, and a decent metric to use in measuring the success of your social media efforts.

Share of Conversation is the degree to which an organization is associated with the problem it seeks to solve. It is measured by the percent of all people talking about a problem online that are talking about you. This is a real measurement, and a fairly good proxy for measuring mind share.

So, yes, it’s ironic that a metric that could measure the effect of brand positioning arrives on the scene and hastens the demise of this marketing staple.

The Death of Marketing Departments?

Not to dwell too much on Wreden’s excellent article, I was especially struck by this item – remember this was written 12 years ago: “[. . .] Forrester recently reported that companies are looking at disbanding marketing departments and distributing its function among sales, customer service, etc. While that is definitely eyebrow-raising, it’s a logical outcome for a function that represents the second biggest outlay for most companies, yet cannot generate the metrics to justify those expenditures. ‘Awareness’ and ‘position’ just don’t cut it anymore in executive suites.”

Wow. Can’t say I’ve noticed this trend in the intervening 12 years, but it could happen.

But I’ll leave you with a bit more from Wreden just to show that some brands get it:

McDonald’s advocates “brand journalism,” or tailoring products and messages to both targets and media.

By recognizing that it is better served by adapting itself to customer requirements instead of preaching a “position,” McDonald’s is definitely on the right track with “brand journalism.” but the term is awkward for several reasons. A better term for this customer-driven strategy that reflects today’s branding realities is “brand wikization.”

Born from the Internet’s ability to link an archipelago of people and information, wikis are the mirror-image of blogs. While blogs reflect one person’s worldview, wikis, written collaboratively by contributors from all over the world, reflect a common judgment on an issue. Definitions depend not on what Funk or Wagnall or Webster say they should be, but on what thousands or even millions of people agree on what they are.

In much the same way, brands today are collectively defined by their customers.

I really couldn’t have said it better myself. Wikis for brands haven’t really taken off, but brand communities are accelerating. And the recent intense concentration on content curation might actually be standing in for the brand wiki concept.

So what do you think? Sound off below.

[i] Knox, Simon. ” The death of brand deference: can brand management stop the rot?.” Marketing Intelligence & Planning. Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd. 1996.AccessMyLibrary. 25 Apr. 2010 <>.

[ii] From Brand Loyalty to E-Loyalty: A Conceptual Framework, Marcel Gommans, Krish S. Krishnan, & Katrin B. Scheffold, Journal of Economic and Social Research 3(1) 2001, 43-58

The Future was Then: On Being Early

Way back in the day, 1999, I worked at the Nielsen Company, then called ACNielsen. Having created the company’s—and the industry’s—first web application in 1995, my marketing counterparts and I had succeeded in getting the company interested in doing more on the web. The fact that we had, for the first time, gotten a Nielsen client to pay for data delivery blew the president’s mind.

To set the stage a little bit, back in 1999 the web was a far different place. They called it the Information Superhighway. (Al Gore did NOT say he invented it. ) People would often respond “the World Wide What?” when I talked about the web. Recommended hardware was an IBM 486 SX25 or a Mac 68030 series with 8MB of RAM.

Google was barely on the radar; we used AltaVista, HotBot, and Northern Light to find stuff. (In fact, late that year, I met a guy from Google and asked what he did. When told that Google was a search engine, I said, “Good luck with all of that. AltaVista’s got it pretty wrapped up.”)

IRC and Usenet were where we could chat, if we could figure out how to. To get online, you needed to subscribe to a national Internet Service Provider like AT&T, EarthLink, MCI Internet, Netcom, Prodigy, Sprint, or SpryNet—most are gone or swallowed by others by now.

Commercial entities were not officially allowed on the Internet until 1995, so a mere four years later, there were few big sites. Big (a relative term) entertainment sites included, Avenger’s Handbook, Driveways of the Rich & Famous and Famous Birthdays. The Dancing Baby was all the rage.


On the eCommerce front, Amazon had just started selling things besides books, and eBay had just 3 million items on auction. High-speed Internet connections were becoming available, but were expensive and boasted speeds up to 1.5 Mbps.  Most home users, however, used dial-up modems running far slower, at 28.8 kbps. Netscape 4.0 was the dominant browser and Microsoft had only recently stopped charging users for Internet Explorer.

A big concern for the people who ran Nielsen’s network and its Internet connection was applications like PointCast, which a couple of years earlier had threatened to swamp corporations’ internal networks with a new technique: pushing news articles to a desktop application in real time. The Internet was seen by many as a Wild West filled with unknowns.

So, in this environment, I started floating the idea of creating a Nielsen portal. I had released the first Nielsen website in 1995, under the radar, and an official site in 1996. After running a project to create what was to become Nielsen’s fastest-growing Internet app, I had the attention of the company president, who came up to me at a meeting and asked, “What is a portal, and why do I want one?” I guess my answer was satisfactory. My marketing partner (now a big noise in marketing at Microsoft) and I were given an $800K budget ($1,173,093 in today’s dollars) to build a portal.

But what was a portal? That was the question that was eventually impossible to answer. The VPs of Marketing and Development couldn’t provide any answers. Jacob and I tried several times to produce a product plan.

My first idea was heretical: use the Internet to retail Nielsen’s marketing information. Nielsen sells marketing information derived from point-of-sale scanners to consumer packaged goods companies. In those days, and to a certain extent today, consumer packaged goods brands would contract with Nielsen, paying millions of dollars to create customized databases of consumer purchase information. Clients used this information to track consumer behavior and trends. You had to be a pretty big corporation to be able afford Nielsen’s services. At the time, our biggest customer paid $30M a year for Nielsen services.

I saw the web as a way to sell reports based on standard databases containing the same information, just not customized for the client. Thus, a small dog food brand could buy quarterly or weekly reports on how and where their product was selling, just like the big boys. The way I saw it, more-advanced analysis and insights could be priced additionally and Nielsen would have a new revenue stream, basically reselling data they were already producing, for a huge markup.

I was told I was crazy.

Nielsen did not get the concept and could not even consider changing their business model—charging big brands millions for access to their databases—to a model involving retailing their information.

My second idea was also crazy: a service that would rewrite articles on cooperating news sites on the fly to link mentions of brands to Nielsen tables, graphs, and reports on the company. Kind of like what you see now, with ticker links on Forbes, the Wall Street Journal or others. (See my post I Invented the Sponsored Keyword for the whole story.  )

The way I saw it, the hyperlink in, say, an article about Kraft macaroni and cheese, would go to some basic information about the performance of the brand, and on that page, there would be a link to purchase a report, either on the company or on one of its brands.

We got nowhere with the second proposal. “Give away our stuff for free? You must be mad!”

We proposed allowing Nielsen clients to access their databases via the web.

No dice.

We proposed integrating other information sources in a portal with Nielsen opinion pieces, similar to current sites that aggregate blogs.


We proposed a portal that clients could use to upload their own information and create reports incorporating Nielsen and other data.

Not gonna happen.

We suggested that clients who had both Nielsen Media (TV ratings) and Nielsen Marketing (our company) subscriptions be able to analyze and correlate their data online.

Not a chance.

As we went through other iterations, each idea was turned down, primarily because it proposed a new way of doing business.

We eventually decided that it was hopeless. Nielsen executives, having seen the rise of CNN and Excite (still alive!) and other portals, knew enough to think that the portal concept was trendy, but they couldn’t wrap their minds around the opportunity for the company because they couldn’t see how to change their paradigm.

We decided to give back the $800K and close the program. I often point to this as the highlight of my career at Nielsen: knowing when to stop.

So imagine my surprise when today, more than 17 years later, I found out that Nielsen has something called the Nielsen Marketing Cloud! Announced in April, 2016, the product is described as combining “world-class data, management tools and analytics applications into a single destination, allowing marketers to more effectively manage their marketing spend.”

Here are the Cloud’s features:

The Nielsen Marketing Cloud’s core set of applications include the Nielsen Data Management Platform (DMP) and DaaS, Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA), and In-Flight Analytics for automotive, CPG and retail, as well as integrations with over 150 third-party media and content activation and optimization applications. All applications enable cross-platform analysis and centralized data access. Additional Nielsen and third-party applications, including Nielsen Media Impact for cross-platform media planning, will be integrated in the coming months.

The details are modern, but this is the same idea we killed in 1999.

It just goes to show what I’ve said elsewhere: It doesn’t matter if you can see the next big thing if you can’t make others see the path beyond the horizon.

So if you want to see beyond our current horizon, and you want help getting there, look me up.


(Many of the 1999 facts are courtesy of ARS Technica’s Time capsule: The Rough Guide to the Internet… from 1999  )


Wanted: One Unicorn

If you’ve tried to hire IT resources recently, you know that, in addition to a generally low unemployment rate nationally, in IT, the rate is practically negative.

So I got a request in my inbox today wondering if i would be interested in a program manager position in charge of a Program Management Office in a large national company.

I took a look at the job req and busted out laughing.

Unicorn Picture

For those who aren’t familiar with program management, which is what I do, generally these managers aren’t in the trenches, wrangling code, creating architecture and managing techies.

They tend to be big picture people who rely on project managers and development managers to handle the technical details. Even at that level, these managers aren’t necessarily as steeped in the tech as the people they manage.

Take a look at the minimum qualifications for the program manager position, and maybe you can see why I laughed out loud:

Minimum Qualifications

  • Education:
    • Four-year college degree in related field or equivalent combination of education and experience
    • Graduate degree preferred
  • Experience:
  1. At least 7+ years of professional experience as a Project Manager or equivalent position responsible for defining and managing project scope, timelines, profitability, and effective delivery of digital solutions
  2. Strong grasp of current web technologies as well as related business issues
  3. Experience in agile/iterative environments
  4. At least 2 years experience managing FTE project management resources. Including administrative duties, reviews, and career planning.
  5. Experience solving business problems with technology
  6. Excellent written and oral communication skills
  7. Must be confident working with all levels of management, and understand the demands and responsibilities of those roles
  8. Experience effectively working with external clients and internal client teams
  9. At least 2 years of experience working on projects that include 50% or more of the following:
    1. Informatica
    2. Cognos
    3. Numerous programming languages (Java, JavaScript, C#, PHP, Objective-C, Python, Ruby, etc)
    4. Enterprise level content management and/or collaboration tools (Adobe CQ, SharePoint, Jive. etc)
    5. Content distribution networks and other media delivery platforms such as Scene 7, YouTube, Bright Cove
    6. Browser performance testing, load testing
    7. Rich internet development (AJAX, Flash, Flex, Silverlight)
    8. Mobile development (Phone Gap, Titanium, mobile web and application development)
    9. Social integration or Apps with Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    10. Web analytics packages (Google Analytics, Omniture / SiteCatalyst, Unica)
    11. Search engine optimization techniques and tools
    12. Behavioral targeting or end-to-end marketing optimization (CRM type tools, A/B testing, etc)
    13. E-commerce or other monetization technology integration (experience with Insite a plus)
    14. Integration tools & techniques (ESBs, Orchestration, SOA, XML, JSON, SOAP, REST, etc)\
    15. UNIX, Windows, and Mac Oss
    16. Hosting / Cloud / SaaS offerings
    17. Vendor management
  • Licenses / Certifications / Registration:
    PMI certification a plus

This is hilarious because to require experience with all of these technologies and tools for a program manager, who manages project managers and other high level resources, is insane. It’s like asking a grocery store manager to be familiar with several different types of forklifts in use in the warehouse.

The job posting also ensures that nobody in their right mind would join this organization that asks for a program manager but has no idea what one does.

This trend toward tremendous specificity in job postings has been accelerating for years. It’s one reason why businesses complain that they can’t find talent with the right skills. It reminds me of when I was hiring a Java programmer back in 1997. Java was a new language then, having had an initial release in 1995, and the development kit released in January, 1996. It was hot, and everybody thought they needed experienced Java programmers.

I was no different. I needed to create a job posting, and so I cruised the job boards looking to see what others were putting in their Java programmer postings. I came upon one that made me LOL.

In addition to a laundry list of many very specific technical qualifications, was this line:

Must have 5 years of Java development experience

In 1997, the only people on Earth with five years of Java experience were the people at Sun Microsystems who began creating the language in 1991. And neither I nor the clueless job poster could afford them.

So what this job posting, and so many more like it, is really saying is: “We want a unicorn, a mythical beast with super coding powers that doesn’t really exist.”

Forget the Unicorns

If you’re a hiring manager, take a look at what you’re asking. Don’t throw in requirements for every technology that your organization  supports. Accept that plenty of good people without every requirement can quickly come up to speed on whatever you’ve got.

Because chances are, you can’t afford to hire a unicorn.


I Invented the Sponsored Keyword

I invented the highlighted sponsored keyword in 1998. You’ve seen them all over, in news articles and blogs—the keywords in an article that have the double underlining that leads you to more information or pops up an ad. In the picture below, you can see that HP has bought the keyword “led.” Whenever the word is used on the Website, a user can mouseover the double-underlined word and see an ad.

Double underlined link popup example

First I tried to get the Nielsen Company and later, a startup I was in, to understand the value of the concept. Of course, this was way before there was the TextEnhance code, AJAX and the javascript support that would make the mouseover feature work.

My concept for Nielsen, who sells marketing information derived from point of sale devices to consumer packaged goods companies, was to rewrite cooperating news pages to feature links to Nielsen tables, graphs, and reports on the company. Kind of like what you see now, with ticker links on Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal or others.

Yahoo keyword popup example

Nielsen did not get the concept and could not even consider changing their business model—charging big brands millions for access to their databases—to a model involving retailing their information.

My concept was the hyperlink would go to some basic information about the performance of the brand, and on that page, there would be a link to purchase a report, either on the company or on one of its brands.

I got nowhere.

Later, at an early SaaS startup in 1999-2000, I tried again. Again I got nowhere.

Now as I say in another blog, having a great idea is not enough. This sure proves that point. For a variety of reasons, I abandoned my quest to monetize this invention. Instead, marketers with more stick-to-itiveness than I, such as IntelliTXT, an “in-text” advertisement platform developed by Vibrant Media, or AdChoices, went ahead and made businesses out of this idea.

And so, alas, I’m not a millionaire . . . Yet.

By the skin of my teeth . . .

So the deadline for the RFP response was 4 pm. At 10 am I found out that the three signatures on an MOU I needed had not in fact been gotten on Wednesday and I had to get them myself. The last sig I needed I got at 3:38. No prob. All I had to do was write the budget narrative my resource hadn’t written, assemble all the MOUs, paste in the budget spreadsheets and org chart, paste in my boss’ sigs (she was out of town) check everything over against the requirements and email the thing off . . . at 3:54. What was I worried about? It was only $2.75M on the line . . .

Good news, bad news regarding Twitter rank

Written by Mike Ellsworth   

Today I went on over to Twitter Grader and checked myself out.

The good news is, I’m in the top 4 percent of Twitterers!

The bad news is, that means my rank is 234,399 out of a total of 5,233,919 Twitterers. Now I know that being in the top 4 percent of anything is a good thing, but the ego gets dented a little when you realize there’s more than a quarter of a million folks who are more, er, more what, exactly? More betterer? More twitteringer? More in-need-of-finding-a-life-offline?

Anyway, I’m going to revel in my lofty status while seeing if I can climb that ladder.

Continue reading Good news, bad news regarding Twitter rank

What’s the deal with tons of ghost followers yesterday on Twitter?

Written by Mike Ellsworth   

Yesterday I received more than 50 new followers on Twitter. That’s usually a good thing, but these followers all have similar handles — Trend Target, Trend Wish, Trend Finder, Cloud Trend, Weather Trend, for example — and they have zero Tweets. 

It’s obviously some sort of automated scheme, but I can’t figure out what possible use something like this could be.

Has anybody else seen this type of thing? Any ideas as to what’s up?

Yes, I know the activity is automated, but I just can’t figure out the motive. There are no bios on these accounts, thus no links that someone might hope I would follow. So it all seems pointless.

I mean, it obviously costs nothing to set up an app like TweetSpinner to automatically follow people who mention a keyword. But usually that activity has a purpose: to encourage the followee to then follow you so you can send them a canned message thanking them for the follow and including a link to a blog or site for them to engage in some behavior like buying something.

But these accounts are empty – no tweets, no bio, no nothing. So how does anybody profit from this?


I follow a Twitter follower building system

Written by Mike Ellsworth   

“How To Get *48,828* Followers On Twitter Automatically With Just A Simple Click Of Your Mouse?”

I’ve been taking a look at all these hypefilled Twitter follower-building offers, and I must admit, they all look pretty much the same. I’m not real clear on the mechanisms they use, so I decided to try one: Twitter List Builder. I’ll blog in this space about what I find out, but I must say, I’m prepared to be underwhelmed. It sounds a lot like a daisy chain.

Nonetheless, I’m keeping a mostly open mind.

Here are links to several other very similar deals, some of which require a purchase:

Twittering for Traffic 
Viral Followers 
Twitter followers 
Twitter Unleash 

It all smacks of MLM to me, but I can’t figure out the business model.

More as it develops . . .