Remember the Heinz Ketchup commercial with Carly Simon touting the virtues of anticipation along with images of ketchup with the taste that’s worth the wait?
I’m reminded of that right now as I wait in a virtual line for the ultimate ioS app that promises to tame my inbox. The app is Mailbox—an app that helps you achieve “Mailbox Zero.” The service checks your email from the cloud and delivers it at super-fast speed to your phone. From there, you can decide whether to act on it now, later or never, all with the swipe of a finger. As of writing this blog, there are 105,619 nerds in front of me in a virtual line to get the app. (On the bright side, there are 193,917 people behind me.)
The buzz began back in December when Techfluentials got early Beta access and shortly proclaimed it “the next big thing.” Said TechCrunch’s Ryan Lawler, “Every now and then, I get my hands on an application or piece of technology that I can’t wait to tell the rest of the world about. Something that is a joy to use, tackles a major problem in a totally intuitive way and makes otherwise difficult tasks unfathomably easy. Something that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we do things.”
I wasn’t as lucky as Lawler. I never received early access. Or, perhaps, the invite got lost in my inbox.
In the months that followed, word of mouth continued to spread as the scrappy start-up did everything right to sustain the buzz:
· Provide early access to the media and other influencers. Check.
· Embrace social media to relentlessly tell your story. (The start-up’s trailer video alone generated more than 1.2 million views and more than 250,000 sign-ups). Check.
· Spur conversations at buzz-worthy events like SXSW. Check.
It also helps to have a killer Day Two story: the Cinderella start-up with just 13 employees had been acquired by Dropbox.
Just three weeks after launch, Mailbox revealed it was already delivering 50 million messages a day. (By comparison, it took Twitter three years before it had the infrastructure to process the same amount of messages). What’s more, the waiting list was more than 1.5 million people strong.
There was just one problem: the company didn’t have the infrastructure in place to keep up with demand and scale accordingly. To best serve customers with a good user experience, Mailbox introduced a waiting list. To get on the list, you download the Apple app to reserve your spot in line. Reservations are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. At any moment, you can tap on the app to see your progress. And, with just one touch, you can stay current on the latest developments and discussions.
At SXSW, Mailbox CEO Gentry Underwood explained that the waiting list is an honest and transparent solution. But I think it’s also brilliant in its simplicity: the ritualization of checking daily where you are in the queue keeps customers engaged and excited while the company does what it needs to do to ensure that when it’s your turn to partake, the experience is a good one.
The waiting game enables Mailbox.com to effectively sustain word of mouth as it rolls out the service to new customers. Think of all the attention Apple receives when its new iProduct finally hits the shelves and loyal consumers wait patiently—often for days—to be the first to get in.
I’m guessing I have at least a few weeks before I’ll be able to experience Mailbox firsthand. In the meantime, the company has orchestrated a brilliant campaign to keep me –wait for it — wa-a-aitin’.
In the past I’ve covered how to go about selecting what social platform to use when rolling out a social strategy for your brand or product. However, if you are someone that is just dipping their toe in the water (or is on a limited marketing budget), one of the best ways to get going is to install and run a social networking software on your server. I’ve handpicked two of the best free platforms that you should be able to leverage out of the box or customize to your heart’s content.
WordPress launched as a free blogging platform but quickly became the world’s most popular CMS. In fact, over 60,000,000 sites currently run WordPress. By itself, WordPress isn’t a social platform (other than commenting), but when you add the Buddypress plugin your site is transformed into a social community. Here’s the breakdown of what it does great and where it’s lacking:
At its core, Drupal is a CMS but in the past two years the makers of Drupal have done an excellent job of adding more and more social elements to the base platform. With over 500,000+ sites running Drupal, it’s the second most popular CMS running today. Here’s a breakdown of the good and bad.
Now to answer the question that I am sure you are asking yourself. “Which one do you recommend?” My answer: “That depends.” If you’re looking to have a full CMS and don’t mind some administrative overhead then I would say jump on the Drupal bandwagon. If you’re looking to quickly customize a site and want to easily add and maintain content and widgets, then WordPress is your platform. Either way, you’ll end up with a solid platform. Best of all … You’ll own and maintain all of your data.
By now, everyone has seen this Infographic. Yes, it is complex and confusing and it should give you a headache.
The tools to manage and measure activity on a socially enabled web today are growing at substantial rate. Today, you can track and measure virtually any activity you would want to or deploy a tool to help you manage social campaigns of virtually any type. A tool or an app has been built to address almost anything you might want to do.
This explosion of social tool development, while innovative and necessary, does little to solve the bigger problems of social engagement, which essentially boil down to understanding why people act the way they act in a social brand encounter and then helping to facilitate the right engagement and then understanding in simple clear terms the value and outcome of that encounter. That’s the bad news. The good news is this will change.
If you follow any innovation curve in virtually any industry, things tend to get harder and more complex before they get simpler and easier. Why? Because, during the early phases of innovation, the processes and rules and infrastructure that will later support new inventions are getting built right along with what’s being invented. Solving any one problem on its own is the goal. Later, problems get grouped together and a new smarter solution addresses them all.
Take the Model T automobile for example. Building the car on a mass scale was one thing. Tough enough to be sure, but what about manufacturing and distributing replacement parts as those cars began to break down? Sourcing, distributing and stocking virtually every part on the car separately was likely a daunting, painful and expensive exercise at the outset, for the supplier and the consumer.
In the end, things improved. They had to for the fledgling automotive industry to remain viable. All the confusion, competing systems and supply chain gaps needed to be streamlined and refined and new smarter and more innovative solutions and options were layered on based on understanding and meeting customer needs.
Innovators moved from activity metrics (which parts are needed) to value metrics (when to make and distribute them so that inventories matched demand) as the industry evolved.
Making sure that the customer could get the parts they needed when they needed it AFTER they purchased the vehicle helped to ensure that that customer would buy another auto from that manufacturer rather than a competitor’s product.
Social Marketing today is going through the same innovation phase as the early auto industry (and every other one for that matter). It will get better. For the industry to survive and remain relevant to users, it has to! The focus will begin to move away from the tools and the activity to the experience and the value of the relationship we deliver.
As this innovation occurs over the next few years, look for consolidation to speed up and for tools become more expansive, robust…and simpler. Tomorrow’s Infographic will look drastically different than the one at the beginning of this post. It will be less about the tools available and more about content, relationship triggers and the decision journey. That’s what tomorrow’s tools will help to manage-relationships and decision journeys, not just data.
Remember, keep your eye on the prize of understanding what is driving your value metrics; what is moving your constituents through the decision process and what compels them to remain involved with your brand. The tools which help you manage your social marketing initiatives will get better, be more intuitive and easier to use, I guarantee it.
Knowing this, social marketing practitioners and their business peers need to start focusing hard on what makes good relationships work. You must now begin the process of blurring the lines between all of your brand experience channels and optimizing those channels for relevance and value.
Get ready, as the next few years will bring marketing innovation and opportunities you have never imagined were possible.
Recently Gartner predicted that by 2017, marketing’s technology spend will exceed that of IT’s within the business enterprise. According to Gartner, 2011 B2B and B2C marketing budgets as a percentage of revenue were almost three times as high (10 percent) as IT budgets (3.6 percent). 2012 IT budgets are expected to grow 4.7 percent, while all marketing budgets, in general, are predicted to grow 9 percent, and high tech marketing budgets, more specifically, are expected to increase 11 percent. On average, nearly one-third (30 percent) of named marketing-related technology and services is bought by marketing already. What’s more, marketing now influences almost half of all purchases.
So why are these facts so important (other than having more money to spend on projects)? In my opinion it is important because of the Paradox of Big Data and its impact on marketers. More money spent on IT means more data streams the marketing teams must manage, right?
Notice I didn’t say ‘information streams’?
Marketing teams can hardly keep up with the fire hose of bits and bytes, metrics, actions, activities and the like today. So how does more make it better? It doesn’t.
Think about your own work. How many dashboards, spread sheets and reports do you see? Do you have the time to study them all and make good decisions or is there simply too much and you do the best you can? Is information overload a reality for you today?
I predict that as more information systems are deployed and the more data that comes online, marketing teams will settle into two camps. 1. High intelligence/managed data and 2. low intelligence/unmanaged data.
The net result of this likely evolution will be organizations that better understand the nuances of their customer segments innovate well and deliver relevant and compelling content, products and experiences to their constituents. That’s the first group. How will they do this?
It is simple in theory, hard in practice (which is why this first group will be smaller than the second).
Members of the high intelligence/managed data group will have forged strong collaborative internal bonds between the various business teams. Marketing, IT, product development, knowledge & insights, HR will all be working together in more efficient ways than in the other group. They will have at their disposal clear and actionable intelligence that comes from their effective Big Data use. It’s important to note that this group will use much more than the standard web data we all use today. They will integrate vast amounts of other transactional information into the intelligence process such as shipping information, call center data, mobile geo-location and usage data, RFID data, etc.
Essentially, these high performing organizations will put the right filters and algorithms in place to provide them with what they need to know to perform well, not what they can know. This is a really important distinction. More data is not better. More intelligence is. Individual data streams will tell you very little. However, when they are paired and bundled together, weighted in terms of importance and linked with certain business goals, patterns and pictures emerge that provide clear insight into what actions might be taken to generate certain outcomes.
By creating intelligence filters, the paradox of big data (more) becomes the power of big data (better). When it is organized against business objective and tracked over time, high performing organizations will excell even further. They will know what activities, campaigns and assets are generating very specific business results. These teams will be able to discern between important activities and unimportant. After all, not all activities or even business goals for that matter are of equal importance.
For instance, below is a filtered report you might find in use in the first group. Note that for this business, generating revenue and driving product innovation are more important objectives than decreasing the cost of support. The question is how much more important and what activities feed into each one of these goals and how important are each of these activities? What if you tracked 800 separate activities or metrics? How would you know? If you take each metric or data stream on its own you wouldn’t.
Which brings me to the second and larger group, low intelligence/unmanaged data organizations. This group collects data like it is going out of style, many times without any rhyme or reason as to why and what to do with it. The problem here isn’t that they will continue to collect more and more of this information but that they will do so while ignoring many other forms of information that is available which can provide critical intelligence. In the end, they will bury themselves in expensive and somewhat useless information.
Customers of firms in this group will grow weary of their disjointed experiences, inconsistent content and lack of understanding of their needs. Firms that fall into the first group will enjoy the benefits of collecting these people as new customers.
There is a relatively recent analog for the potential impact that Big Data will have on marketers in the coming years and the dichotomy between the first and second group I’ve outlined here. In the 1960’s Ed Deming taught the Japanese auto manufactures how to establish and manage a quality process that turned out better parts than their American counter parts. The Japanese listened and adopted the approach, enterprise wide. The result was the reversal of market share, which had a catastrophic effect on Detroit’s automobile dominance.
Currently, neither the first or second group has really formed yet but organizations are already headed one way or the other. For marketers with the ability to be change agents, recognizing which path you are on and doing something to either ensure you remain on that path or quickly change it will impact your organization’s future success.
Big Data will either be your greatest ally or your nemesis. It is up to you to choose which.