The Next Great Web Filter

Time to cry information overload – again!

how we've filtered the web

how we've filtered the web....what's next?

Way back, in the early days of the Internet, there was lots of excitement about all the information available online.  Organizations quickly learned that having a website was a requirement to operate a successful business, and people began turning to the Web for most of their information needs.  As websites  multiplied, people struggled with how to make sense of it all, sort through it, find what was most valuable to them.  An exciting new communication channel soon blossomed into information overload with no effective filters.

Enter search engines.  Google, Yahoo, AOL rose to fast prominence by giving people a way to navigate through the morass of websites and find what they wanted quickly.  Then SEO, blogging, and content marketing were born, and smart marketers started feeding the search engines to get them to point people their way.  It started with link buying and swapping, then moved to a content creation craze.  Now, instead of website overloading, we’re inundated with “7 Lessons Learned” “10 Best Ways to…”, “6 Tips for…” headlines intended to lure people and links.  An exciting new search marketing field soon blossomed into content overload with no effective filters.

Enter social media.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ all rose to fast prominence by connecting people, establishing online relationships, and giving people a way to chat and share information.  Now, in addition to search engines navigating and giving meaning to web content, friend recommendations are helping people to filter and discern what’s worth paying attention to.  But what happens when you gather 500+ friends and you’re following their lives, their interests, their shared links?  An exciting new communication channel soon blossoms into information overload with no effective filters.  Hmmm…sound familiar?

Enter… what’s next?  I don’t know about you, but I’m now yearning for the next great filter that will save me from drowning in all my social media activity.  Too much information.  Too much wasted time.  What new technology is going to help me navigate through all the social clutter and find my way to meaning – and still leave me time to live my life?

What are your thoughts?

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Social Media – Just Part of the Job

September 6, 2011 Filed under: Fun Stuff

I attended a Social Media event this week, sponsored by SMC Seattle – the Seattle branch of Social Media Club, a national organization with the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media.  These monthly meetings are a great way to network and learn what other people are doing in social media, and, since I’ve attended for roughly 2 years, they also let me observe some things about social media’s evolution in  the Seattle business culture.  Here are some observations that I think are worth sharing from last week’s meeting.

  • Age diversity. Meetings are sold out every month, at ever-larger venues.  Yet this crowd was not only larger, but noticeably more diverse.  Social Media enthusiasts are no longer just 20-somethings, which I assume means employers no longer think you have to be under 30 to ‘get’ the new media.  This gathering featured an 85+ year-old cane-toting man, lots of recent college grads, and an even spread of every age in-between.
  • A new demographic. The speaker, Kathy Savitt, CEO of Lockerz, cited numerous statistics and survey results to describe “GenZ” – the generation of people born since 1990, who’ve never known life without the Web.  Statistics on this age group paint a picture of a generation addicted to mobile devices and social media, while marketers are busy figuring out how to sell to the new, always-connected consumer.  Some of the speaker’s observations:

GenZ is highly friend centric.  It’s no surprise to learn that peer recommendations and social media sharing are the single biggest source of brand exposure and purchase influence for this age group.

GenZ are “curators,” meaning they operate by curating their knowledge and content from multiple sources, not one trusted source. This makes it more difficult for marketers to establish brand loyalty, and requires that B2C companies reach out through as many social channels as possible.

  • Lifestyle impacts. With the novelty of social media wearing off, there is more discussion of its impact on day-to-day life.  Conversations included fun tidbits like stories of ‘when I lost my cell phone’ and ‘most original tweets I’ve seen,’ while more serious topics included the negative impacts of social media on teen motivation and attention, and the feelings of isolation generated by social media over-use.  All are signs of social media being firmly planted in the mainstream, with the next focus on how best to integrate it into our shared culture.
  • Part of my regular job. Two years ago, most attendees identified themselves as social media experts, hired by their employer to ‘do’ social media.  Companies didn’t know what to make of the new fad back then and needed an expert to help them figure it out.  This time, everyone I talked to described social media as just ‘part of my job’. Not one business card I collected even mentioned Social Media. It’s become ubiquitous enough to be taken for granted.
  • Not cool, just practical. While social media experts carried a certain panache and cool factor just a short while ago, discussions at this event carried more of a bottom-line theme.  How can I track my ROI?  What is a Facebook follower actually worth to my business?  How can I integrate social media with the rest of my marketing tactics?  How can I best target my audience demographic through social media?  To claim coolness today, you need to prove it with quantifiable ROI.

What observations have you made about social media’s evolution in your region?

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Roundup of Google+ First Impressions

Google+ pictureIf you follow anything about marketing or technology, you’ve probably heard about Google+.  The new social media channel, released to a limited invitation-only trial on June 28, has taken the tech world by storm.  Since there are plenty of news stories – and Google itself — to explain the new features, I’ll give you instead a roundup of the early impressions and opinions from early trial users.  It seems to be generating as much enthusiasm among Search gurus as HP and the DH2 is among Harry Potter fans.  Here’s what people are saying after the first 2 weeks:

Google+ Circles more like real relationships. The most talked-about new feature is Circles, which allow you to segment your social relationships more like people do in real life (define what circles you travel in socially, separate friends, work, family, etc.).  Wall St. Journal columnist Katherine Boehret, invited to test the Google+ trial, gives a clear overview here.

Targeted for Business. While Facebook was designed with college students in mind, Google+ seems a better fit for businesses.  Google has plans to start a test phase for businesses today, so expect more light to be shed soon on how business can make best use of it.  With high expectations and baited breath, many are waiting to see if and how Google is the social business network we’ve all been waiting for.  Read here about Google’s social business plans.

Game changing for small biz. Google+ Circles, a real-life way to segment your social connections online, will allow small businesses to ‘go social’ with their customers more easily, and will make it easy to join circles of your favorite local businesses through an integration with Google Place listings.  Andrew Shotland writes a great piece on Google Plus Google Places.

Plenty of hype & navel-gazing. Since the trial has been by invitation only, Google has heightened the mystery and gotten the pundits talking.  Like lots of big tech announcements, the initial hype may be a tad overblown. “Once Google+ users start discussing topics other than Google+ then it might get interesting…”  quipped one commenter on TechCrunch.

Google’s Trojan Horse. Devin Coldewey (TechCrunch) claims (convincingly) that the latest Google announcement is not only a replacement for Facebook and/or Twitter, but Google’s long-range plan to take over the Internet. “Sure, right now it seems like it’s aimed at Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter, but when the stakes are this high, you better believe they’ve got guns pointed at everyone in the room.”  Yikes.

Inevitable Facebook comparisons.  Google has been widely rumored to have Facebook in its sights, so the comparisons are rampant.  Some of the more interesting include Rafe Needleman’s (CNet) claim that “Google+ Makes Me Happier Than Facebook,” Ryan Singel’s (Wired) preference for Google+ over Facebook on Privacy, …and Mashable’s Facebook Defectors survey results from voters who said “I’ve already left. Facebook is so dead to me” (24.4% of votes at this writing).

It’s still social media. While lots of pundits are saying it’s an improvement, Google+ still gives you the unending stream of comments from all your connections.  Here’s some early advice on how to manage it before it manages you.  Peter Meyers (SEOMoz) advises how to invest only 15 Minutes a Day on Google+.

If you’re not one of the early trial users, be sure to get on Google’s waiting list so you can discover Google+ for yourself!

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10 Great Blogs & Websites for Small Biz Owners

June 21, 2011 Filed under: Fun Stuff — Tags:

small business blogs and websitesMany small businesses are struggling as our economy continues to sputter and choke.  There may not be a silver bullet to solve the growth problem, but there are some good resources on the web for small businesses looking to grow and expand.  Here are some blogs and websites you may find helpful.

Small Business Trends – a website hosted by Anita Campbell, widely regarded as one of the leading small business experts, who follows trends in the small business market and has won numerous awards for her dedication to small business.  This site includes article contributions from a broad list of small business writers and bloggers.  One downside: it’s organized chronologically, not by topic category, which makes it difficult to browse for topics of interest.

SmallBiz Technology – an online publication with easy-to-understand articles on technology.  Educates small business owners on how to use technology as a tool to grow their business.  Offers articles, videos, events, special reports, and great suggestions for small biz tech resources and tools.

BizSugar – A spinoff of Small Business Trends, this is a neat little bookmarking site for small business, which means articles are submitted by readers and then voted on so you can see which ones are most popular and most liked by the small biz community.  It’s easy to navigate, with clear topics (marketing, finance, legal, franchises, technology, startups) and lots of sub-topics, so you can easily browse popular articles in a well-defined category if you’re looking for advice or peer opinions on a particular topic area.  This site has a loyal following and lots of active participants.

Inc. Magazine – This grandaddy of small business publications has been around for 30 years.  The online edition includes a rich collection of articles, blogs, AskInc Q&A forum, IncTV video collection, Guides & Tools for specific small biz challenges, and the first-rate magazine itself.  A great feature is the Inc Advisor, a collection of how-to guides, articles, tips, and video interviews with top entrepreneurs, who share their lessons learned on wide assortment of topics for start-ups.  Another highlight is The Inc.500 | 5000 Conference and Awards Ceremony, an annual event that celebrates the fastest growing private companies in America.

DuctTape Marketing blog – John Jantsch writes this blog on small business marketing, with lots of practical & easy tips of the “10 Best Ways” variety.  He is a popular speaker and consultant, and also has a Podcast series of his famously practical small biz advice  available on iTunes.

Entrepreneur magazine a monthly online publication that carries news stories about entrepreneurialism, small business management, home-based business,  franchising, and business opportunities.

SBA website – the US Small Business Administration has a useful website that starts with a handy assessement tool to help you determine if you’re ready to start a new business.  It’s also got a wealth of articles about managing and growing your business, including practical topics like obtaining licenses & permits, business laws & regulations, loans, grants & funding, importing & exporting, energy efficiency, insuring your business, disaster preparedness, working with the government, etc. The site can also direct you to the local SBA office in your region for more localized small biz information.

NYTimes You’re The Boss blog – a bunch of first-rate journalists contribute to this blog, featuring lots of real-life stories of entrepreneurs and small business owners and what has worked (or not) for them.

Wall St. Journal How-to Guide for Small Business – The Wall St. Journal publishes oodles of articles on small business, but on this site they aggregate lots of “how to” tips, written by some of their top reporters and columnists.   If you’re looking for hands-on advice for how to make some challenging decisions in your business, look here before you pay a consultant.  Article categories include Funding a Business, Franchising, Starting a Business, Hiring & Managing Employees, Buying & Selling a Business, and more.

Business On Main – a Microsoft MSN site that calls itself “a community for small business leaders.”  Includes articles, videos, tools and other information to inform and answer questions about starting, running and growing a business. Includes a Q&A database, though it doesn’t appear to be very active.

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Ten Best Printed Books About Marketing

March 15, 2011 Filed under: Fun Stuff — Tags:

Guest post by James Adams

marketing booksWhen you’re looking for books on marketing, the vast majority of them are available in eBook form only. Even if you have an Amazon Kindle, there’s still something to be said for books in print. Somehow, being able to hold the book in your hand and turn pages manually, being able to smell the paper, there’s something to it that eBooks lack, and the sheer fact that someone actually went to the trouble of printing it, rather than throwing it up on the web, shows that they had a little more faith in it than your average eBook publisher. Here are ten of the top printed books for marketers.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War is really an essential book no matter what area of business you’re involved in. The information and advice contained herein is more than a series of strategies and tactics that you can apply to every day life, it also teaches you a new way of looking at competitive affairs, and marketing is definitely a competitive affair.

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

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10 Best Online Marketing Posts from 2010

December 16, 2010 Filed under: Fun Stuff,Internet Marketing — Tags:

It’s December, which means a good portion of what you’ll read and hear from media in the coming weeks is likely to be “Best of 2010” year-end wrap-ups.  In that spirit, I’d like to share my favorite blog posts of 2010 in the world of small business marketing.  They’re favorites because:

  • They’re topics that help small businesses grow through online marketing
  • They are plain spoken and to-the-point
  • They give practical, usable advice
  • They’re thought-provoking
  • All provide original insights on key aspects of Internet marketing and social media

Here goes:

What Do Your Customers Really Want? from M4B Marketing.

50 Can’t Fail Techniques For Finding Great Blog Topics from Copyblogger.

40 Social Networking Sites Specifically for Small Business, Entrepreneurs and Startups from Small Biz Bee.

How to Build a Community from BizSugar.

The Rich Get Richer – True in Organic Marketing from SEOMoz.

Local Search Ranking Factors from David Mihm.

9 Tips That Improved My Blog from Global Copywriting.

Is Social Media Really Anti-Social? from Partners In Excellence.

How to Convert New Visitors Into Returning Readers That Act from Blog Tyrant.

Beginner’s Guide to Web Data Analysis: Ten Steps to Love & Success from Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik

I invite you to leave a comment and share your favorite posts from 2010 about how to market your business effectively on the web.

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Blogging: Eight Lessons I Learned My First Year As A Blogger

November 4, 2010 Filed under: Blogging,Fun Stuff — Tags:

image from cakecentral.com

It’s my blog’s birthday.  One year ago I started down the scary-but-exciting path of becoming a blogger, and I’ve survived to tell the tale (don’t laugh; many bloggers quit in less than a year!).  Here are 8 lessons I’ve learned – 4 that come quickly to mind, and 4 that are the result of deeper reflection.  I’d love to hear what YOU’ve found in your first months or years of blogging.

First 4 Things I’ve Learned

Blogging takes a lot of time.  There’s no getting away from this one.  It does get easier as you develop your voice, learn some workable approaches, and get into the “zen” of writing.  But there’s no denying the need to carve out time in your schedule to write.  More time than I expected, in fact.

It’s tough finding new things to say. At least initially.  There’s already so much good content published by others, how can you possibly have anything new to say?  And yet, I find there’s always new things happening in my niche, new problems or concerns I hear from my clients, new ideas I find it worthwhile to share and invite discussion about – in short, life happens and is worth talking about.  That’s what the world of social media – and blogs – is about, after all. (more…)

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The Way-Back Machine – Some Friday Fun

October 1, 2010 Filed under: Fun Stuff — Tags:

I was having some fun today, a sunny Friday, poking around on The WayBack Machine Internet archive, looking to see my client’s way-old website and how far they’ve come.  So I thought I’d share some fun scenes on my blog.  First, if you haven’t heard of the WayBack Machine, it’s worth checking out.  Think of it as the Internet time machine; you can type in a URL, then pick a year, and you’ll be taken back in time to the website as it looked in that year.  The Archive contains over 100 terabytes and 10 billion web pages archived from 1996 to the present. Where else can you literally go back in time and experience history as it really was?  Check out these ancient memories. And go ahead and click on the links – they’re still live!

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