American Express Dreams Up a Potential Win-Win-Win

Here’s an example of a B2B2C initiative that looks like a potential winner for all parties involved.

American Express OPEN, the hugely popular community for small businesses sponsored by the credit card company, and Etsy are partnering ahead of Small Business Saturday on Nov. 29 to encourage small business boutiques  to support local Etsy sellers by hosting Trunk Shows.

According to a press release, “These events provide online sellers with the opportunity to put their products in front of customers in a traditional retail setting. For boutique owners, the trunk show is a chance to increase foot traffic into their store by providing diverse product all while supporting a local artisan in their community.” Each boutique that agrees to host a Trunk Show gets $75 worth of credits to buy supplies and a chance to win a $5,000 design consultation from Rue Magazine.

I’ve long been impressed by American Express OPEN. In addition to representing a large financial commitment on AmEx’s part, the community is a great example of a B2B initiative that really gets close to the customer. Small Business Saturday, which Amex invented four years ago, is one example of the energy and creativity that Amex has put into courting this audience. The Trunk Show idea is not only innovative, but it potentially benefits American Express, its small business merchants and independent crafters. That’s a rare win-win-win.

TheCUBE is Traveling Tech TV

The folks at Wikibon and SiliconANGLE have been traversing the country for the last two years with a cleverly packaged portable streaming video platform they call TheCUBE. They touch down at the site of a technology conference, stake out a couple of hundred square feet of floor space and start pulling in speakers and attendees for interviews. The interviews are streamed live online and archived on the SiliconANGLE Network channel on YouTube. At the recent EMC World Conference they blew through 72 video interviews.

Wikibon founder Dave Vellante is clearly having the time of his life, and they’re making money, too. Conference organizers and sponsors pay for the coverage. Here they are at this week’s IBM Edge conference in Las Vegas, where TheCUBE is at the center of the action and the interviews are playing continually on screens around the conference floor. Congratulations to Dave and John Furrier for a great and well-packaged idea.

TheCUBE at the IBM Edge Conference


Who Should I Interview at White House Correspondents’ Events?

By sheer dumb luck (and knowing the right people) I’ve scored invitations to several activities around the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington the weekend of April 27. I’m not invited to the dinner itself (I’m not that well connected!), but I will be at the pre- and post-parties, as well as at the Sunday brunch.

Thomson Reuters, which is my host, is offering to try to set up interviews with its other guests, who are listed here. I’ll have my video camera ready. Question for you: Who should I ask to meet? Give me some suggestions in the comments area below, and if you’d care to suggest questions, that would be even better.

Dan Stevens

Dan Stevens (left) – English Actor best known as “Cousin Matthew” in Downton Abbey
Fred Armisen – Actor/comedian best known for Saturday Night Live & Portlandia
Jamie Wyeth – Artist
Jeremy Renner – Actor best known for The Hurt Locker, Bourne Identity, the Avengers
John Baird – Canadian Foreign Minister

Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner (left)– Actress/Activist, best known for Body Heat, Romancing the Stone
Madeline Stowe – Actress/Activist, best known for Revenge, Last of the Mohicans
Mariane Pearl – Freelance Journalist, widow of Daniel Pearl, Writer at Glamour magazine
Mark Carney – Governor, Central Bank of Canada
Mary Jo White – Chairman, Securities & Exchange Commission

Victor Cruz | New York Giants

Victor Cruz

Michael Corbat – CEO, Citigroup
Pat Llodra – Selectman, Newtown, CT
Ruth Porat – CFO, Morgan Stanley
Steve Zahn – Actor best known for Treme
Victor Cruz – Wide receiver, New York Giants
Several Top Chefs from Bravo TV Show ‘Top Chef

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IDC Sees Massive Disruption From Industry’s Platform Shift

The global IT industry is in the middle of an epic platform shift and the rules for survival in a market built on mobility, big data analytics, social business and cloud computing will be very different than those that applied to the previous client/server generation.

Download Frank Gens’ slides here

That was the message from IDC Senior Vice President & Chief Analyst Frank Gens as he kicked off the research firm’s Directions 2012 conference in Boston this morning. Gens, who has tracked the computer industry since the days when mainframes ruled the earth, outlined a dramatically new economic structure that will emerge as economies of scale take hold.

Frank Gens, IDG
Frank Gens (photo by Jeff Ballard via Twitter @jballard)

“Volume is going way, way up and price is going way, way down,” he said of the new software market. “If [technology companies are] going to drive large-enough volumes to support the revenue levels they’re used to, they’re going to have to drive the number of customers way up. You’ll need millions of customers in order to compete.”

Gens outlined some striking changes in the platforms and architectures that underlie what he called the “third platform” of computing after mainframe and client/server. Among them:

  • Spending on mobile data services will surpass spending on fixed data services this year for the first time. “That’s a crossover that will never cross back,” he said.
  • The 700 million mobile devices shipped in 2012 will roughly double the number of fixed devices shipped during the same period. Spending on mobility will exceed spending on PCs and servers for the first time.
  • The volume of unstructured data in corporate data centers will exceed the volume of structured data for the first time.
  • China will surpass Japan to become the world’s second largest IT market at about $170 billion.

But the most startling changes Gens outlined concerned the software applications market, where downloadable free and low-cost apps are redefining the economics of the business. IDC forecasts a five-fold increase in annual apps downloads to 137 billion by 2016. Only about 18% of those apps will be paid for, and average prices will fall from $1.59 today to 82 cents. “That’s spooky stuff when you consider that PC apps average about $25” and that that market isn’t growing, Gens said.

Technology companies will need to overhaul their business models to accommodate these shifts. In order to attract the thousands of new customers they’dd need to recruit each day, vendors will have to become experts at cultivating communities and working with partners and even competitors. In other words, word of mouth marketing is the only viable promotional model.

Will Microsoft be a player in mobile platforms? It may be, but Redmond has a lot of work today, Gens said. A recent IDC survey asked developers which platforms they were “very interested” in targeting. Apple IOS for the iPhone came in first at 90%, followed closely by Google’s Android for smart phones. HTML 5 was a strong third. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 was a weak fourth at under 40%. Can Microsoft compete? “We should know in the next 12 to 18 months,” Gens said.

Tech firms will also need to serve a wider variety of vertical markets because price deflation won’t permit the luxury of focusing. Fortunately, IDC has identified more than 40 new specialty industries made possible by platform shift, including medical assistant online, social mobile commerce and smart buildings.

And if these pressures weren’t intense enough, don’t forget overseas competition. Gens said the business models that support high-volume, small-transaction markets are being honed right now by Indian, Chinese and Russian companies that have worked in that environment for years. US firms, with their high costs and margins, are going to struggle to adapt to a leaner and more competitive way of doing business.

This is one in a series of posts sponsored by IBM Midsize Business that explore people and technologies that enable midsize companies to innovate. In some cases, the topics are requested by IBM; however, the words and opinions are entirely my own.

CIO Challenges Educators to Stay Relevant

Wichita State University CIO Dr. Ravi Pendse last month issued a provocative challenge to educators to rethink their tools and tactics if they are to remain relevant a decade from now.

Addressing a regional edition of the popular TED conference in Wichita, KS, Dr. Pendse, who is both the CIO of Wichita State University and an award-winning professor, said he chose the term “relevant” deliberately. In his view, educators who continue to rely upon lectures and chalkboards as the tools of their profession are becoming dangerously out of step with the ways in which young people learn.  Educators must not only adopt the tools the students use but also adapt their curricula to the topics that interest those students.

“If the goal is to get people excited about history, shouldn’t we study the history of Google?” he asked. “Our young people are looking for complete convergence. If you can’t provide it to them, you have a problem of relevance.”

To illustrate how out-of-step some educational institutions have become with even everyday technology, Dr. Pendse asked audience members to exchange cell phones with each other. He noted the nervous rumbling the exercise created among the crowd. “It’s uncomfortable not to have those devices with you,” he said. “So why do we tell people in the schools to turn them off? We should be using them as educational tools instead.”

Facebook is ubiquitous among college students, but many higher education administrators don’t use any social networks at all. With the social network expected to surpass 1 billion members sometime this summer, “Wouldn’t a class be popular that studied the sociology of Facebook?” he asked.

Dr. Pendse acknowledged that his views aren’t universally shared, but he expressed little sympathy for educators who refuse to change. “I call them CAVE people,” he quipped. “That stands for Colleagues Against Virtually Everything.”

The analogy of the caveman may not be lost on an older generation that is falling further behind. By the age of 21, many young people today have played 10,000 hours of online games, Dr. Pendse noted. Educators may not approve of that fact, but they need to accept it and discover some of the virtues of video games, since they improve motor skills and concentration, that’s why so many people get the best hardware for their games, like processors from this amd fx 6300 review so they can play games as Overwatch using different OW Guides.

For example, “They require creativity. They even have built-in assessment tools; you can’t go to level 15 without completing level 14. And young people are collaborating across the world to figure out how to get to that next level.”

If educators are to get to the next level themselves, they need to put down the chalk and pick up the mouse. “Technology will never replace teachers,”’ he said, “but we can use technology to help a much greater number of students learn from each other.”

You can see Dr. Pendse’s 23-minute presentation below.

The Value of Tweeting Events

A list of tips for building a quality business Twitter following that I recently contributed to The CMO Site mentioned the value of being the eyes and ears of your followers. “When you attend a conference, play reporter and tell your followers what you’re witnessing,” I advised. An experience from this morning demonstrates the value of what amounts to sharing notes you would probably take anyway..

I attended a nearby Social Media Breakfast on the subject of content marketing, featuring several respected speakers. I had HootSuite fired up on my laptop and Notepad++ pre-populated with speaker handles and the event hash tag. I posted about 30 comments during the 90-minute session, mostly speaker quotes and summaries of what was being said. Using the #SMB26 hash tag ensured that my tweets would appear in the busy stream of comments from the session.

Within an hour after the event had ended I had 26 new followers. This required almost no work on my part. I would have taken notes anyway, but by adding a hash tag and Twitter usernames I was able to piggyback on other activity going on around the meeting and catch the attention of people monitoring the tweet stream.

Twenty-six new followers is a pretty good week. It’s an awesome day.

A few of notes about tweeting from an event:

Don’t overdo it. People don’t like it when their newsfeed is crammed with messages from one person. A couple of years ago I made the mistake of tweeting rapid-fire updates from a conference at the rate of about one every 15 seconds. Several followers admonished me for this and about a dozen stopped following me entirely.

Think before you send. Quotes that make sense to you as an attendee may baffle someone who lacks context. Set up the quote with background if necessary. For example, Digital Influence Group’s Brian Babineau described how a telecommunications client had made its plans to build new cell towers more real by publishing details on a map. I summarized: “@BrianBab21 Show, don’t tell. Building new cell towers? Photograph, geotag and embed on a Google Map for ppl to see. #SMB26”

Add perspective. Can you append a comment that adds value to a tweeted quote? I try to do that whenever possible: “@cc_chapman Loves #Harley Ridebook. Great example of customer-driven storytelling. #SMB26” or “@cc_chapman ‘You are never your audience’s priority.’ Publishers have to remind themselves of this all the time. #SMB26.”

Include Twitter handles and links whenever possible. Adding a speaker’s handle makes it more likely that the speaker will see your tweet. References to a news story or website should include a link if you have the means to find it. For example, “@jchernov Guy who proposed to GF via infographics may have mortally wounded the medium 🙂 #SMB26”

My entire tweet stream, in chronological order, is below. That was easy.

What’s worked for you when tweeting from events?

Follow #SMB26 for “New Rules of Content Marketing” right now w @cc_chapman @jchernov @BrianBab21 @RachelJOConnell @RobertCollins
@RachelJOConnell “Our motives as marketers are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the buying decision.” #SMB26
@RachelJOConnell Praises Audaciously Eloquent blog: Headlines and photos only; almost no text #SMB26
@RachelJOConnell “We can’t control what ppl say about us, but we can control the experience they have and share.” #SMB26
@RachelJOConnell is a quote machine: “Look for opportunities for other ppl to express your brand.” #SMB26
@BrianBab21 “Days of building a destination and driving people there are over. Spend w/partners on relevant environments.” #SMB26
@BrianBab21 “Content mktg is soft sell. Not ‘do this’ but ‘read this and tell us what you think.'” #SMB26
@BrianBab21 Show, don’t tell. Building new cell towers? Photograph, geotag and embed on a Google Map for ppl to see. #SMB26
Really! Buzzword of the month–>RT @dough: “Infographic” mentioned 2x so far. I don’t have a drink dangit #SMB26
@jchernov Guy who proposed to GF via infographics may have mortally wounded the medium 🙂 #SMB26
@jchernov Infographics are about info, not pictures. Bad ones suffer from lack of data #SMB26
@jchernov Covers 4 kinds of infographics. “State of…” infographics shows snapshots of history to visualize change. #SMB26
@jchernov on 4 kinds of infographics. “Resource” infographics are how-tos. Stuff you stick on the wall. #SMB26
@jchernov on 4 kinds of infographics. “Comparative” contrast two similar themes: FB vs Goog, under-25 vs over-65. #SMB26
@jchernov on 4 kinds of infographics. “Evolutionary” are timelines that illustrate change or motion. #SMB26
@jchernov nails prob w infographics: “Pretty pictures follow if you’re faithful to the data. Reciproal doesn’t work.” #SMB26
Love good ones, hate most I see these days –>RT @dough: @pgillin Oh dear– we jinxed it. “infographics in 15 minutes” #SMB26
@cc_chapman Loves #Harley Ridebook. Great example of customer-driven storytelling. #SMB26
@cc_chapman “You are never your audience’s priority.” Publishers have to remind themselves of this all the time. #SMB26
RT @george_grattan: @cc_chapman Lincoln quote : give me 6 hrs to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe. #smb26
@jchernov quotes Alan Cooper: “No matter how beautiful, how cool your interface, it would be better if there were less of it.” #SMB26
RT @hipharpist: “Speak in Human.” @cc_chapman @thecontentrules #smb26
@jchernov “Ppl who get our content first (subscribers) promote us more actively to their friends.” #SMB26
Audience question: Can you give away too much info and have competitors take advantage of you? Panel unanimous: “No.” #SMB26
@cc_chapman calls Cisco’s @timwasher a “genius.” Tend to agree 🙂 #SMB26
@jchernov has quote of the morning: “A lot of ppl have written a white paper but no one has ever read one.” #SMB26
Thanks to @diginfgrp and @ConstantContact for a great session at #SMB26 this morning. Excellent panelists.
@RobertCollins Key to #SocialMedia success for #nonprofits: “Create a platform for the people you help to tell their stories.” #SMB26


Live Blog: Day 2 Kickoff Strikes Transformation Theme

Day Two of Lotusphere kicked off with a celebration of business transformation enabled by collaboration technology. Representatives from TD Bank Group and the author of a hot new book told stories of businesses that are rethinking the way business is done.

Wendy, Arnott, TD Bank Group

TD has grown to become North America’s sixth largest bank through acquisitions and a focus on listening to customers. A new social media team listens and responds to blogs, Facebook posts and tweets, the process “learning to be a better bank,” said Wendy Arnott (right, @Wendy_Arnott), VP for Social Media and Digital Communications.

The company has also transformed its internal communications using social networking technologies anchored by IBM Connections. Arnott ticked off the three key imperatives as aligning with core values, delivering real value and facing risks head on. To that end, the bank is endeavoring to involve employees in critical decisions.

Acknowledging the technical orientation of the Lotusphere audience, IBM also brought out TD’s CIO, Glenda Crisp (left, @GlendaCrisp) to talk about the importance of the IT-business partnership. Crisp said traditional project management was complemented by a collaboration steering committee that addressed issues like adoption barriers as well as technical problems like SharePoint integration.

The committed deemed it critical to make the shift to a shared platform as transparent as possible Single sign-on simplified access to Connections and Google search appliances were brought in to make enterprise-wide search seamless. Interviews with users also surface the importance of supporting mobile users of the bank’s dominant BlackBerry platform. “We made that a key factor in our selection criteria,” Crisp said.

The result of this active employee involvement was an adoption rate that exceeded expectations by a factor of seven. More than 50,000 users in Canada are up and running, and US deployment is expected to grow from 3,000 to more than 25,000 in less than a month.

Arnott ticked off success criteria:

  • Get executive leadership sponsorship.
  • Put a dedicated organization in place to oversee deployment.
  • Deal with resistance by “getting into weeds with business teams and helping them discover how social will help them address business challenges.”
  • Get employees involved on a volunteer basis and make sure their ideas count.

IBM next brought out Fast Company editor Bill Taylor (@practicallyrad) to address the need for business transformation. Taylor, whose new book is Practically Radical, asserted that in this age of commoditization, “The only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special. Winning organizations today stand for new ideas,” he said. “The middle of the road has become the road to nowhere.”

Bill Taylor, Fast Company at LotusphereTaylor talked about the radical innovation embodied in the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, which broke the mold when it built a new hospital in West Bloomfield, MI three years ago. Executives at the health care provider realized “they knew everything about surgery and pharmacology, but they knew nothing about what it took to make people feel right.”

Common Area, Henry Ford Health CenterHenry Ford Health recruited consultants from the hospitality and restaurant industries and conceived of a 160-acre facility that looks more like a resort (left) than a hospital. They created a file of more than 2,000 original healthy recipes that are in such demand that the hospital now books $1 million annually in catering revenues.

The result is “a business home run because the approach from day one was so unconventional,” Taylor said.

Taylor also sang the praises of USAA, an insurance company that solely serves military customers. The 10-week employee orientation process there is more like a boot camp than a training course, he said. New recruits wear 65-lb. backpacks to simulate the working conditions of a infantry soldier and eat military rations. “They want to immerse their people in are the lives and experiences of their customers, which creates bonds not only with customers but also between employees,” he said.

Bottom line: “As you think about making your business more memorable, also think about how you make it more social.”

This is one in a series of posts sponsored by IBM Midsize Business that explore people and technologies that enable midsize companies to innovate. In some cases, the topics are requested by IBM; however, the words and opinions are entirely my own.

How Will Computers Serve Us in 2020?

Live-blogging from the IBM Watson University Symposium at Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management. Additional coverage is on the Smarter Planet Blog. .

Panel discussion: What Can Technology Do Today, and in 2020?

Moderator: Andrew McAfee – MIT Sloan, CDB

Panelists: Alfred Spector, Google; Rodney Brooks, MIT, Heartland Robotics, David Ferrucci,IBM

Alfred Spector, Google
Alfred Spector, Google

Spector: We focused in computer science for many years on solving problems where accuracy and repeatability was critical. You can’t charge a credit card with 98% probability. We’re now focusing on problems where precision is less important. Google search results don’t have to be 100% accurate, so it can focus on a bigger problem set.

When I started in computer science, It was either a mathematical or an engineering discipline. What has changed is that the field is now highly empirical because of all of that data and learning from it. We would never have thought in the early days of AI how to get 4 million chess players to train a computer. You can do that today.

The Next Big ThingThis is one in a series of posts that explore people and technologies that are enabling small companies to innovate. The series is underwritten by IBM Midsize Business, but the content is entirely my own.

Brooks: Here at MIT, all students take machine learning because it’s that important.

McAfee: Was there a turning point when you decided the time was right to take these empirical approaches?

Brooks: It was in the 90s. The Web gave us the data sets.

Ferrucci: Watson was learning over heuristic information. Plowing through all those possibilities through sheer trial and error was too big. You have to combine inductive and deductive reasoning.

Brooks: It’s easy to get a plane to fly from Boston to Los Angeles. What’s hard is to get a robot to reach into my pocket and retrieve my keys.

McAfee: Why does the physical world present such challenges?

Brooks: In engineering, you have to set up control loops and you can’t afford for them to be unstable. Once a plane is in the air, the boundaries of differential equations don’t change that much. But when reaching into my pocket, the boundaries are changing every few milliseconds.

McAfee: The things that 2-year-old humans can do machines find very difficult, and the things that computers can do humans find very difficult.

Rodney Brooks, MIT

Rodney Brooks, MIT

Brooks: One thing we have to solve is the the object recognition capabilities of a two-year-old child. A child knows what a pen or a glass of water is. There is progress here, but it’s mainly in narrow sub-fields. Google cars are an example of that. They understand enough of road conditions that they can drive pretty well.

Spector: We’re looking to attack everything that breaks down barriers to communication. Example: With Google Translate, we eventually want to get to every language.

Another is how to infer descriptions from items that lack them. How do you infer a description from an image? We’re at the point where if you ask for pictures of the Eiffel Tower, we’re pretty good at delivering that.

A third thing is to make sure that information is available always from every corpus, whether it’s your personal information, information in books or information that’s on the Web. We want to break down those barriers while also preserving property rights. How many times have you searched for something and you can’t find it? I turns out it’s in a place where you weren’t looking. When you combine that with instantaneity of access, you can be on the street and communicate with someone standing next to you in the right language and the right context. You can go to a new city where you’ve never been before and enjoy that city no matter where it is.

McAfee: You think in five years I’ll be able to go to Croatia and interact comfortably with the locals?

Spector: Yes.

Brooks: We think manufacturing is disappearing from the US, but in reality there is still $2 trillion in manufacturing in the US. What we’ve done is go after the high end. We have to find things to manufacture that the Chinese can’t. What this has led to is manufacturing jobs getting higher tech. If we can build robotic tools that help people, we can get incredible productivity. The PC didn’t get rid of office workers did; it made them do things differently. We have to do that with robots.

We can take jobs back from China but they won’t be the same jobs. That doesn’t mean people have to be engineers to work. Instead of a factory worker doing a repetitive task, he can supervise a team of robots doing repetitive tasks.

My favorite example is automobiles. We’ve made them incredibly sophisticated but ordinary people can still drive.

Spector: It’s machines and humans working together to build things we couldn’t build separately. At Google, we learn how to spell from the spelling mistakes of our users.

Ferrucci: This notion that the collaboration between the health care team, the patient and the computer can result in a more effective diagnostic system as well as one that produces more options. Everyone is well informed about the problems, the possibilities and why. I think we’re capable of doing that today much better than we did in the past. This involves exploiting the knowledge that humans use to communicate with each other already. This gets you as a patient more involved in making better decisions faster. It’s collaborating better with the experts.

McAfee: Don’t we need to shrink the caregiver team to improve the productivity of the system?

Ferrucci: The way you make the system more productive is to make people healthier. Does that involve a smaller team? I don’t know, but I do know you get there by focusing on the right thing, which is the health of the patient.

Andrew McAfee, MIT Sloan

Andrew McAfee, MIT Sloan

McAfee: If you could wave a wand and get either much faster computers, much bigger body of data or a bunch more Ph.D.’s on your team, which would you want?

Brooks: Robotics isn’t limited by the speed of computers. We’ve got plenty of data, although maybe not the right data. Smart Ph.D.’s are good, but you’ve got to orient them in the right direction. The IBM Watson team changed the culture to direct a group of Ph.D.s the right way. I think we’d be better off if universities were smaller and did more basic research that companies like IBM would never do.

Spector: When many of us in industry go to the universities, we’ve often surprised that the research isn’t bolder. Perhaps that has to do with faculty reward issues. We envision that there’s going to be need for vastly more computation. I’m sure Google data centers will continue to grow. If you stay anywhere near Moore’s law, these numbers will become gigantic. The issues will relate to efficiency: Using the minimum amount of power and delivering maximum sustainability.

With respect to people, there’s a tremendous amount of innovation that needs to be done. Deep learning is a way to iteratively learn more from the results of what you’ve already learned. Language processing is a way to do that. We learn from the results of what we do. Finally, data is going to continue to grow. We bought a company with a product called Freebase where people are creating data by putting semantic variables together. Just learning the road conditions in New York from what commuters and telling us is crowdsourced data, and that’s enormously useful.

David Ferrucci, IBM Research

David Ferrucci, IBM Research

Ferrucci: We need all three, but in order, it’s researchers, data, machines. Parallel is processing is important, but it’s less important than smart people.

McAfee: Do computers ultimately threaten us?

Brooks: The machines are going to get better, but for the foreseeable future we’ll evolve faster. There’s a lot of work going on in the area of putting machines into the bodies of people. I think we’re going to be merging and coupling machines to our bodies. A hundred years from now? Who the hell knows?

Spector: There will be more instantaneity, faster information. We can embrace that, like we did central heating, or reject it. I think we’re on a mostly positive track.

Audience question: What’s the next grand challenge?

Ferrucci: I think the more important thing is to continue to pursue projects that further the cause of human-computer cooperation. We tend to go off after new projects that require entirely different architectures, and that hurts us. I’d rather we focus on extending and generalizing architectures we’ve established and focus on applying it to new problems.

Brooks: I’d like to see us focus on the four big problems we need to solve.

  • Visual object recognition of a 2-year-old
  • The spoken language capabilities of a four-year-old
  • The manual dexterity of a six-year-old. Tying shoelaces is a huge machine problem
  • The social understanding of an eight-year-old child.

How to Promote an Event with Social Media

How to Promote Your Event With Social Media

As a frequent speaker at events of all sizes, I’ve had a chance to observe some of the best practices conference organizers used to promote their events through social media. In most cases, these efforts cost little or nothing more than your time.

Here are some suggestions for leveraging social channels for event promotion. I’m sure I haven’t covered all the possibilities, so please contribute your ideas as comments. We’ll look first at tactics the can work for any event, then I’ll propose a few ideas for large conferences covering multiple days and many speakers.

Events of all sizes

  • Set up a unique landing page for each event. You need a single Web address that people can refer to in their social channels. Use this page to describe and “sell” the event, not to gather registrations. Send visitors to a different landing page to register. If there are several events in the series, create a unique landing page for each.
  • EventBrite is a great service, but I recommend against using it as your event landing page. Use a page under your own domain and use EventBrite (or similar services) for registrations.
  • Publish an announcement on Yahoo’s Upcoming or Eventful. They help you publicize to a local community. Also consider professional associations, which may give you a calendar entry for free.
  • Regardless of the size of the event, set up a Facebook page or create a dedicated event sub-page under your Facebook page. It costs nothing and gives you access to the extended social networks of registrants and potential registrants. When people “like” your page, that action is shared with everyone in their network. The average Facebook member has 130 Facebook friends. That amplifies your message pretty quickly.
  • Create a Twitter hashtag and promote it to your colleagues and registrants. Ideally, the hashtag should be unique to the event (#AcmeForum11), but it’s OK to use your organization’s hashtag if your main goal is to build your brand.(#AcmeForums). Use the hashtag in all your communications and always link to the event landing page.
  • Schedule Twitter promotions to go out at different times of the day, including on weekends. Free clients like Tweetdeck and HootSuite make this easy. If you’re trying to attract an international audience, don’t forget to schedule some promos to go out during the local work day in those areas. If you can customize to the local language, that’s even better.
  • Ask registrants for a Twitter address and then follow them on Twitter. Retweet their messages from time to time. They’ll notice you and are more likely to follow you and retweet your event-related messages.
  • Use a unique tracking code with each promotion and make sure to use a different code for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mail (Here’s a primer on Google Campaign URL Builder). You want to know which sources are sending traffic to your landing page so you can better focus your resources.
  • Link to the event page from your e-mail signature line. Make sure others on your team do this, too.
  • Create short-code URLs using a service like Many services let you customize the short code to something that’s easy to remember, like your event name or hashtag (for example, Do that.
  • Your speakers and fellow organizers are your best sources of social media promotion. Make it easy: Create suggested messages for them to use in each medium (For example, “Come see the latest in Acme widgets. Special discount if you use this URL“). It’s better that they use your message than create their own. Create a couple of short messages for Twitter and a longer one for a blog or Facebook. Limit Twitter messages to 120 characters to allow for retweeting.
  • Provide a suggested tag for attendees to use when posting photos or videos from the event. This enables you to assemble photo galleries by stitching together tagged content from a variety of sources.
  • Create an event badge (right) that speakers can embed in their blog sidebars or on their websites. Link to your landing page using a custom URL. Don’t send speakers an image, but post the image on your site and send them an embed code. This enables you to tell who’s sending you traffic. It’s a good idea to offer speakers a special discount code they can share with their friends and followers.
  • Something that’s rarely done but worth trying is to customize discount codes and offer a rebate to attendees who successfully recruit other registrants. All you have to do is give each badge-holder a unique registration code to promote, and then track who sends you customers. Then refund promoters a percentage or fixed amount.
  • Create SlideShare and YouTube channels for your event. Post all appropriate pre- and post-conference materials there. SlideShare is a particularly good place to post speaker presentations as a way of raising awareness about follow-on events. Be sure to point to your event site from the SlideShare and YouTube profile pages. Embed media from your SlideShare and YouTube channels on your event website.
  • Content from past events is your best promotion for future events. Record as many presentations as possible and post them as podcasts or video podcasts. Be sure to provide an RSS feed so that potential attendees can subscribe to new content as it’s posted. If you can’t record the sessions, set up brief interviews with selected speakers and post them as podcasts.

Large events

  • Set up a branded Twitter account specifically for the event. This enables registrants to follow you to learn about developments in the program and it also creates a channel for post-event follow-up.
  • Use the Twitter account to promote announcements such as new speakers, sessions, sponsors and parties. Ask staff and speakers to retweet these messages in order to gain followers. Don’t forget to include the Twitter hashtag!
  • Create an event blog. Ask speakers to contribute posts of 300-500 words. Space out entries so that there’s a constant stream of new content. Focus speakers on writing about the topic of their presentations, not promoting their businesses. Promote each new entry on Twitter and your Facebook page. Post a description and link in relevant groups on LinkedIn.
  • Create an e-mail newsletter with frequency of at least every other week. Make it easy for website visitors to sign up for the newsletter, even if they don’t register for the event. Promote a newsletter sign-up page on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Be sure to post the content of each newsletter on a page on the conference website so that people can link to it.
  • Create a series of pre-event audio and/or video podcast interviews with speakers. You can use VOIP services like Skype and inexpensive recording software like Pamela to capture this audio. Post the podcasts on the conference blog and on a dedicated multimedia page on the conference website.
  • Create a page to aggregate news media coverage of the event and/or topic of your event. An easy way to do this is to use Delicious link rolls. Embed a small piece of Javascript code on your Web page and whenever you bookmark an article on Delicious with the designated tag, the headline and link post automatically to your page.
  • Create a “buzz page” that monitors mentions of your hash tag and automatically posts them to a comment stream. Here’s an example.


  • Send a summary e-mail to all attendees with referrals to conference materials on SlideShare and YouTube. Send people to a page on your event website that hosts that embedded content. The landing page should include calls to action to register for future events. A “repeat attendee” discount is a good idea.
  • Set up a survey form to capture evaluations from attendees. Google Documents supports simple forms at no charge. Publish the best comments as validation of the quality of your content. Here’s a simple form I use to gather feedback on my presentations. It took 10 minutes to set up.
  • Continue to use the Twitter account to update attendees and provide fodder for future promotion.

What did I miss? Tell me what works for you and for conferences you’ve attended.

Got a Cause? Pen a Poem. Win 10 Grand.

It’s tough raising nickels and dimes
In even the most prosperous times
One new course of action
That might get some traction
Is pitching nonprofits in rhymes

Heart and Soul Foundation Grant ProgramOK, so I didn’t miss my calling as a poet. But if you’re a nonprofit organization in the U.S., U.K. or Canada, and if you can tell your story poetically, you can win up to $10,000 from the CTK Foundation’s Heart and Soul Grant Competition.

You only have four weeks to compose your masterpiece, but that’s enough time for a four- to eight-line poem, right? Here’s how it works:

Submit an original poem that reflects the work and/or mission of your nonprofit organization. Just about anyone can write it, but it’s got to be original. They’re Googling to be sure. You have until March 28.

Winners will be selected by an international panel of independent artists and producers. In addition to getting a briefcase full of money, you’ll be invited to a gala evening event on April 14th in Austin, Texas. I recommend you put the money in the bank before heading to the event.

  • First place award is a cash grant of $10,000. Your poem will also be made into a song by written and recorded by a man who’s got an incredible story to tell.
  • Second place award is a cash grant of $5,000 and no song.
  • There’s also a Blogger’s Choice Award, whereby a randomly selected blogger who helps promote the program (like me) gets to choose an applicant to receive a $1,000 cash grant. There’s no song with this award either, but the blogger might hum a few bars for you.
  • Two steel-stringed guitars, signed by all members of Los Lonely Boys, will be awarded for use in for auction and fund raising. I recommend you avoid shipping them on United Airlines.
  • Up to 20 technology grants, valued at $10,000, to nonprofits that indicate an interest.

Are there more details? Sure. Select the CTK Foundation tab located on the website. The video has more. You can also follow #ctkgrant on Twitter.