Wednesday, February 25

Expect the Rip-Offs to Arrive In Time for CES 2010

I heard it also requires a special type of battery that is not used by any other electronic device.

Tuesday, February 24

No Shit Sherlock headline of the day

My newsreader must have gone through a wormhole last night:

Firing SQAD: Data Firm Sets 'CPM' As Online Ad Metric

In a move that will likely align the ROI of online advertising more closely with that of traditional media such as television, an influential source of media marketplace data this morning announced it will use Madison Avenue's long-standing CPM, or cost-per-thousand, metric as the "currency" for tracking online advertising.

"Since there is currently no industry-standard equivalent to cost-per-point in the Web display space, we elected to focus on CPM in the initial WebCosts release," Neil Klar, CEO of SQAD says of the company's rationale, which came after discussions with the AAAA's influential Media Policy Committee.

The Greatest Risk to Facebook's Success

Monday, February 16

Defending Facebook's Right To Own Your Bad High School Photos

Facebook set off its annual User Outcry Event, this time over an update of its usage policy providing it ownership of any content you upload to the site. Even if you delete it. Even after you cancel your account and leave the site.

Every year founder Mark Zuckerberg announces something that pisses off the Facebook masses. Whether it is notifying your friends whenever you do something on your personal page (eventually accepted and embraced), notifies your friends when you do something on other websites (the short-lived Beacons initiative), or just changes the design of their site (1.4 million users apparently still hate them over that). Not surprising 2 of these 3 are privacy related.

Personally I don’t see the point to the current outcry over the obvious: You upload your content to their site. They store it on their web servers. They allow you to share this content with others on their site. Just because you are emotionally attached to it doesn’t mean the site can’t lay claim to it.

Here’s a spoiler alert = There is no privacy on the Internet.

Facebook initially was a place to find and communicate with others. Now it has evolved into a place to share content as well. And most of this content is deeply personal in a puppies and babies scrapbook kind-of-way.

But let’s be honest: 68 million people used Facebook last month. Unless you are famous now – or fall into famousness in the future -- your stuff really isn’t that important to them. The long tail of vacation photos and 25 Things About You doesn’t stop at your profile page.

But there are some open questions. What about Facebook apps that import content from other sites? You can embed Youtube videos to show off your home movies. Use the Flickr widget to present your wedding photos. Import status posts from your Twitter account. Technically all this content resides on other web sites. Can Facebook lay claim to those?

The knee-jerk expectation is that they will use your content in their own advertising. Any ad agency will tell you that is sooooo 2008. Brands already troll YouTube to produce cheap TV ads (Vonage, KFC, Hampton Inn, Geico). That fad is over.

Maybe they plan on publishing a photobook of bad hair from the 80’s. Or sell t-shirts reprinting funny status quotes. It would be one thing if they wanted to own unique creative content – such as when virtual worlds World of Warcraft and Second Life tried to lay claim to virtual items created by their users.

So if they can’t really monetize your stuff, or use it as cheap marketing material, why do they want it? At some point it might be valuable. Any web site desperate for a revenue model needs to cover their bases.

Nothing dies on the Internet. Any content you put online can be found, archived, and stored by web crawlers. Retrieved at any time via search engines. The fact that Facebook saves your content, even after you delete it and cancel your account, means that at some point they could make it publicly searchable and even sell access to it.

This goes beyond just text (such as your status posts and About Me info). Photo recognition technology is here and companies like Google are ready to take advantage of it. Not to mention these photos are already tagged with your name by all your so-called friends. Just wait until your kids start searching for photos of you circa the year College Keg Party. This may be the most serious threat to your personal privacy. Those of you who participated in Cuss In Your Status Day can start sweating now.

Facebook users love to complain and faux protest whenever the mothership steps on their toes. Usually by starting up a protest group ON FACEBOOK. Which I guess means Facebook owns any complaints about themselves. Those self-serving bastards.

Will this cause a mass exit to the next up-and-coming social network site? I doubt it. Friendster is the best case study for this scenario. It lost a majority of its user base to MySpace in two weeks, primarily because their site kept breaking. But also because its users were primarily teenagers and twenty-somethings, who have no problem spontaneously jumping ship and starting anew.

But over the last year Facebook’s demographics has skewed to 30+ yrs old. These old timers can be very lazy online. Set up a new account on a different site and re-upload all my photos? That sounds time consuming. Re-friend 175 people? That’s a pain in the ass.

I predict the fury will be short lived and cause minimal long-term damage to Facebook’s user base. Soon we’ll all get back to listing our random iPod songs and the third sentence on page 56, inviting friends to our birthday party event, and revenge-tagging photos. But don’t be surprised if you see me wearing a t-shirt featuring your prom photo and that hilarious status post about Congress Stimulating Your Package.

Tuesday, February 10

iMedia Brand Summit Reflections & Forecasts

So I just attended my first iMedia Summit as a brand marketer (as opposed to the agency side). Overall very impressed with the level of presenters and topics. Usually I attend interactive conferences and don't learn a damn thing. Not because I'm so smart. Mainly they just regurgitate the same case studies and industry insights that have been beaten into us over time. Which makes you feel smart but really just makes you lazy.

So rather than tweet away and recap each session, I thought I'd provide the insights that floated to the top. Performing 90 1-minute interviews with media sales reps (the Speed Pitching session) gives you a fairly good overview of where things are heading.

Ads in "Free" iPhone Apps are the Next Widgets
Encountered at least 5 vendors who are now selling ad space in free iPhone apps. Which just proves the theory that anything a consumer stares at longer than 5 seconds is prime advertising real estate. iPhone app hype continues to rise faster than iPhone penetration. If you buy into this then you better get a free iPhone for your CMO so he can review the creative.

Twitter is the Next Podcast
Remember when podcasting was going to be the next big thing? It was like radio, only with a more limited audience. Podcasting still serves a specific niche, but it really isn't the mass channel that was originally hyped.

I like Twitter. I think status posting (or microblogging if you want it to sound more impressive to your boss) is here to stay. But it doesn't make a mass marketing channel from day 1. The hype we thrust upon these new communication channels prevents them from really maturing and finding their place. Best thing you can do is ignore all those tweets and let them at least reach puberty.

Mobile is the Next Mobile
The longest-running emerging trend on Broadway. Soooo many mobile vendors. All still small and niche. None can explain what they do in less than 60 seconds. Most won't be around in 12 months. Rinse and repeat.

The Return of the Streaming Microwebisodecast (with product placement)
There are a ton of video production houses going rogue and starting to work directly with brand marketers -- bypassing the creative agencies and media shops (and their high budgets).

Special thanks to last year's Hollywood writer's strike for providing a new outlet for quality video creative. Which means brands are in charge of creating their own branded videos. Minus the hilarious agency creative team, big name director, and week-long stays at Shutters On The Beach. I wonder how long this trend will last...

Bigger Banners are Better but Consumers Still Don't Click Them
Research companies are still presenting the insight that bigger banners perform better in brand effectiveness studies. Geezus, no kidding. That was in my first Dynamic Logic report circa 2001. And the second. And the 157th.

Google/Doubleclick reports that the average banner CTR is now 0.10%. The norm previously had been 0.15%. That means that now 1 of every 1,000 people click your ads. As Google encouraged us: "This decrease seems to have stabilized." Yeah, because the water on my driveway froze solid, but luckily it isn't getting any solider. Is it even statistically possible to get below 0.10% of anything?

The World does not Need a 500K Banner (file size, not price)
Seriously, someone tried to convince me that a 500K square banner would be awesome. Now, a $500K banner I might be intrigued by. Maybe for next year's Superbowl.

Your Email Inbox is the Next Social RSS Reader
I now have email inboxes on Facebook and Linkedkin, at work, and at home. I need to be notified of friends' Twitter posts, Facebook wall posts, friend invites, Linkedin profile updates, blog comments, and when I am tagged in bad high school photos.

All of these create alerts that I can have routed to one email address. So rather than checking all these sites (plus my phone SMS, and my iPhone apps, and my Blackberry), I have them forwarded to my home email. Which is forwarded to my iPhone email. So while away from my computer I know everything going on in my social networks. No different than an RSS reader that gets updates from all the websites/blogs that I have tagged.

If I can get that RSS reader to send daily summaries to my email address then I will be completely decentralized centralized.

The Recession has not Hit the Swag Industry
My tally of free stuff:

  • Best Swag = free Zoot running shoes
  • Lamest = 5 inch stack of branded Post-it Notes
  • Most Repetitive = branded USB thumbdrives
  • Yummiest = chocolate-covered pretzels (eaten)
  • Sort of Yummy = fortune cookies containing sales call to actions (eaten as last resort)
  • Most Relaxing = wooden foot massager with peppermint lotion
  • Least Relaxing = branded Rubik's Cube
  • Vaguest = leather desktop holder for something (pens? business cards? wooden foot massager?) with embedded clock
  • Most Retro = large zip-up portfolio with my name on it
  • Closest to Downright Bribery = branded $30 Visa Gift Card. Or maybe it was a stimulus card
  • Most Useful = empty box with paid postage to mail it all back home

That's it. I'd definitely come back to the Florida Gulf in February next year. Despite my sarcasm, there was a lot of good information and insights. And some sort of drama at 3 AM on the 4th floor. But what goes on at iMedia stays at iMedia. At least until the webcasts are uploaded.

Sunday, February 8

Reflections, Analysis, and Predictions on a Day of Filth: It was the First Annual Facebook “Cuss In Your Status Day” Dumbass!

So last Tuesday driving home from work I had a minor revelation – no one cusses on Facebook. By “no one” of course I mean my social network friend circle. I have no idea what happens on the rest of the site. Facebook’s semi-private publicness is one of the beautiful things about it.

But I have over 300 friends, most of whom I actually know. And the bulk of them swear. Many of them swear a lot. But not on Facebook. Which got me thinking about the effects of social norms on virtual communities. And how words you would have no problem spouting in real life all of the sudden get restricted online with the same audience.

Maybe you have a few Facebook friends who might not appreciate it. Peers such as a coworker or neighbor; authority figures such as your boss or your mom. Or maybe that type of crassness is just soooooo “Myspace.” Facebook has always been the clean cut kid who makes his bed and wears an honor society pin. While Myspace is sneaking smokes behind the fence and hasn’t had to get a real job yet.

Whatever the cause, I thought it would be really fun to challenge my friend network to break habit for at least one day. It would give some of them the excuse to let loose. At the most it would force everyone to reflect on their own social network in a new context: If you can’t cuss in front of your Facebook friends then are they really your friends? I love passive-resistant angst. Burger King recently pushed the same buttons with their Whopper Sacrifice promotion (unfriend 10 people and get a free Whopper, but we’re gonna tell them why you defriended them).

The Birth Of Cuss In Your Status Day

So that evening I created an event for 3 days later: The First Annual Cuss In Your Status Post Day on February 6 and invited all 340 friends on my list. What the hell, worst thing would be that no one is interested. I mean, it’s just one of thousands of Facebook Events created every day.

12 hours later (9 am Wednesday) 825 people had been invited. This was split into 116 accepting the invite, 25 declining, 16 replying “maybe”, and 668 not yet responding (they were invited by someone to “attend” but hadn’t acted on it). So 59% of the people either saw one of my friends join it and followed them, or received a cold call invite from someone on the list. Definitely some viralability going on.

By noon there were 1,275 on the invite list (197 accept + 25 maybe + 54 decline + 999 not replied). 24 hours after creating the event there were 2,272 (422 accept + 83 maybe + 185 decline + 1,582 not replied). I noticed the percent of “not replied” was steadily decreasing. Earlier that day it was 81% of the total invitees. Now it was 70%.

So I sent a group email asking them to spread the word to their Facebook friends by email, event invitation, or posting to their profile page. The only people I couldn’t communicate to were those who “declined.” If you were sent an invite and hadn’t responded (1,582 people at this point) then I could send you a Facebook email, even if I had no connection to you. Which seems like a major violation of Facebook’s core premise. But I had an event to market dammit so spam away. I was surprised that I only received 4 emails back = 2 pissed off and 2 just wondering how I was able to contact them.

Meanwhile the Event page message board revealed a truly pent up desire for the Facebook community to express themselves. Or not. (Facebook users can view it here)
Click thumbnails below for full images:

I couldn’t tell if people misunderstood that they were supposed to save it for their actual status post on Friday, or maybe were just practicing. Either way it appears that I struck a common nerve.

So this dumb idea picked up steam and became an interesting case study of social viral word of mouth and virtual peer pressure. Like any dedicated interactive marketer I did the next logical thing. I bought some text ads promoting it.

For two years I've been staring at Facebook ads for making big bucks hourly, getting money from Obama, curing my acne, and buying things that Oprah recommends. What if you saw an ad for something out of the ordinary?

By Thursday morning the Event invitee list was up to 2,975 (67% not replied). By noon 3,773 (65% not replied). At 9 pm I had over 6,000 invited. My very small budget text ad buy wasn’t really performing well (average 44 cent max bid = 450 clicks, 0.06% CTR, 773,940 ad impressions, 26 cent CPM). So almost all of these invitees were spawned from my initial 340 invitations.

Cuss In Your Status Day’s Eve
Cuss In Your Status Day was almost here! So I decided to send one last email blast to the Event list (accepts, maybes, and not responded). I then learned that Facebook removes email ability once you go over 5,000 invites. So I had to delete 800 “No’s” and a couple hundred “Not Respondeds” in order to get under the limit.

Meanwhile the anticipation was killing a lot of my Facebook friends. There was a huge amount of potential swear energy being stored up for Friday. And it sounded like they were promoting it with their friends as well. The 6,000 official Event invitees were probably only a portion of the total number of Facebook users aware of it.

Which is where Facebook gets fuzzy as a marketing tool. I was ground zero for Cuss In Your Status Day. I know all my friends were aware and that some of them would take part. But I had only a minor glimpse into how their friends we reacting. And no idea what was going on with the 6,000 other Event Invitees and their friend connections. Were people talking about it? Ready to participate in it?

Cuss Day!
On Friday morning the carnage started.

I can only speak for my friends, but it started slow and built into one big messy collection of swearing. And not-quite-as-offensive swearing:

Some even celebrated with their profile photo:

All day. Non stop. Well, at least for some of us.

Some went all out with a flurry of adjectives worthy of George Carlin. Some apologized at the same time. Some did it once. Some went on all day. The F Bomb was definitely the swear of choice. It took 2 hours for the dreaded C Word to appear.

And by reading the status comments, it seemed like those off my friend network had heard it was coming. And if they hadn’t, at least thought it was a great idea.

And maybe it really was going on all over Facebook. Or at least parts of it not related to me.

Or maybe not.

One of the big questions for me (and others) was how many Facebook friends would be lost during this day of debauchery.

Seems like there was some defriending going on, but maybe not to the extent everyone was worried about.

I lost one “friend.” Haven’t looked into who it was and honestly don’t really care. I picked up 10 new friends, so that more than balances it out.

It was a crazy madhouse of cussing carnage in the morning and through lunch. Slowed in the afternoon and pretty much stopped by the end of the workday (at least in my group). Which I guess follows the same trend as online shopping from work. By evening it was pretty much over except for the real diehards. I had a theory that it would pick up again after people started their Friday night drinking. But maybe my social crowd is showing its age.

The Aftermath
I estimate maybe 20% of my friends participated that day. I didn’t have any expectations so I guess that is good. Many others who I expected to take part didn’t, which is the more interesting result. I assume from self-inflicted peer pressure, which I hope haunts them for at least a few more days. Or maybe they really could care less. I caught a few friends deleting their naughty posts on Saturday, probably after their left temporal lobe sobered up.

So about 285 of my friends lurked and tolerated my posts (and the posts of other friends we share). Or maybe they don’t check Facebook that often. It is a lot like inviting a crapload of people to a kegger party, getting wrapped up in the drunken fun, and then trying to remember the next morning who showed up. Actually, it was a lot like that.

Back on the Event page there was a total of 9,803 invitees by the end of the day. 30 times the original number I had personally invited 3 days earlier. And the portion of invitees who had not responded dropped considerably to 54% of the total. Which means at least 4,500 were actively aware of it. Not to mention the 774,000 media impressions from my text ad buy.

How many people actually participated? No idea. Unlike Twitter -- where user posts are mostly public and available on to search (check out – Facebook posts are private. Which makes any success criteria purely anecdotal. This is what drives marketers nuts about trying to tap into Facebook. Facebook’s sales team should be pushing for an anonymous “buzz chatter meter” to sell as an extra measurement service. They have a proprietary lock on it that no other research company can fulfill.

An informal poll of my friends ranges from “not many cussers” to “a lot.” I bet an average of 10 – 15% of your total friend list is accurate. Which could mean I just need to publicize it more next year. Or maybe there’s just too much social peer pressure in virtual communities. But I bet if more people hear about it in advance (and assume their friends are aware as well), then they will have less trepidation taking part.

I didn’t see it get picked up in the press, which is easily resolved by friending some magazine editors between now and February 2010.

Seeking Corporate Sponsorship of CIYSD 2010
So I’m planning the Second Annual Cuss In Your Status Day for 2010. Interested? Sign up on our Facebook Group and I’ll notify you when it is scheduled:

Got thoughts, insights, or commentary on how Cuss Day affected your social group? Leave a comment here or email me at my new official address:

And hopefully I’ll cuss you next year dumbfuck!