Message to Marketing Graduates

Photo by Shoshanah (click for Flickr page)

Photo by Shoshanah (click for Flickr page)

I spent 90 minutes speaking to Dr. Nora Barnes’ social media marketing class at the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth this morning. I try to speak to college classes at least four or five times a year, in part to give back something to the next generation and in part to learn more about what’s on their minds.

I asked the students – all of them senior marketing majors – the same question I always ask college classes: How many of you subscribe to a daily newspaper? The response was pretty typical: three students out of a class of 34.

Here are some of the things I told them:

  • Much of what you’ve learned about marketing over the last four years will be irrelevant five years from now. The field is changing too quickly. You’ve been learning about how to tell a story and position a brand, but in the future your job will be much more about listening to customers and working collaboratively on brand definition.
  • You should discard much of what your teachers have been telling you about the media. Traditional media is collapsing and what emerges from the rubble will look very different than the institutions we now know.
  • The best skills you can bring into the marketing field today are resourcefulness and curiosity. You must be willing to reinvent your skills constantly because the playing field is in a constant state of turmoil. This is very exciting for you and it’s very scary for the people you will be working for. Be sympathetic, but don’t get stuck doing things the old way.
  • Traditional media was built upon a foundation of inefficiency. The clothing retailer who wanted to reach the .01% of the population who want to buy a wedding gown at any given time has had to pay for the 99.9% who don’t. That’s crazy, but it’s the only way we could get a message across in the past.
  • The worlds of media and marketing are undergoing enormous improvements in efficiency right now. Unfortunately, efficiency is usually painful because it destroys institutions that were built upon inefficiency – institutions like newspapers and magazines. In the end, we’ll be better off, but we’re still in the ugly destruction phase right now.
  • In the last decade, Americans have shift from browsing to searching for information. This has huge implications for the way decisions of all kinds will be made in the future. Search engine marketing and search engine optimization should be part of any core university marketing curriculum today.
  • The shriveling of traditional media creates new opportunities for organizations — and that includes businesses — to fill the trust gap that’s been left behind. Businesses can become media if they so choose. Most of them haven’t accommodated themselves to that fact.
  • Trust is complex in the new world because we are losing our traditional trusted brands. I trust Wikipedia to tell me the date the Yalta Treaty was signed, but not necessarily to interpret the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Trust is also situational. We are learning to trust some sources for certain kinds of information but not for others. It will take time for us to sort this out.
  • Today, individuals can choose to be celebrities all by themselves. They need to have something interesting to say and the knowledge to use new channels to say it. This is very cool. We no longer have to depend on others to decide if we can be important or not
  • This is a great time to be a college student getting into marketing. The old guard is struggling to learn the new tools that this generation intuitively understands. Companies like Edelman are going so far as to create reverse mentoring programs in which younger employees train senior executives. This doesn’t mean you young people know it all. Be open-minded about learning from the experience of others and be generous about sharing what you know.
  • In the old days, the marketer’s job was to media-train a few key executives. In the future, the marketer’s job will be to media-train the entire company. This will be enormously empowering for marketers.
  • Marketing’s traditional role has been to talk. Its future role will be to listen. Branding and positioning will be defined as much by a company’s constituents as by its employees. If you choose simply to talk, people will choose simply not to hear you. Marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to increase their importance in the organization by becoming listeners.
  • Messages spread from the bottom up much faster than they spread from the top down. Cindy Gordon’s story at Universal Studios is just one example. She told seven people the news and within a couple of days, 250 million others knew.

And finally: By the time you graduate, have a LinkedIn profile. And for goodness sake, clean up your Facebook profile!

    Going Totally Random With Twitter

    The most frequent criticism of Twitter that I hear is that the service is a waste of time. It’s all about people telling the world what they had for breakfast or how long they’ve been waiting for a bus. Don’t we have better things to do?

    I decided to try a short experiment. I clipped a 100-tweet block from my Twitter stream at random and examined the contents to see just how much useful content there was, if any.

    A little background first: I follow about 1,150 people and I prune my list with some care. If someone’s tweets are completely irrelevant to my interests, I unfollow that person. I only follow people who interest me or who send me a personal request asking me to follow them. That weeds out the spammers and bots.

    Here are my results

    • 42% of the tweets were what I’d call random. These were mostly along the lines of what people had for breakfast or ongoing conversations I hadn’t followed.
    • 12% contained news of general interest (BTW, Twitter has been one of the best places to monitor the ongoing news of the Samoan tsunami this week).
    • 33% were referral links to information that the writer found interesting.
    • 7% were notable quotes.
    • 6% were either self-promotional messages or requests for advice.

    Two statistics interested me in particular. One was that 45% of the tweets contained a link. This indicates that Twitter is used at least as much to point friends to interesting information as it is to comment on everyday activities. After all, you can’t link to what you had for breakfast. The other is that at least 20 of the tweets interested me enough that I wanted to learn more.

    This wasn’t the kind of reading I would find on a typical news website. Here’s a sampling:

    It isn’t, but then I don’t use Twitter for the same reason I use CNN. The bottom line is that the 4 1/2 minutes it took me to read 100 tweets yielded at least 20 items of interest. There are other places on the Web where I could consume more information in less time, but it’s a different kind of information. It’s not less valuable, just different.

    Newspaper and magazine editors often complain that the rise of customized news services has shortchanged readers by removing the element of discovery that a printed publication delivers. However, the Twitter stream and Facebook news feed deliver just as much surprise and delight as any professional media entity, if not more. The only difference: the recommendations come from people I know instead of professional editors.

    It turns out that avid Web users are just as interested in discovery as print readers. It’s just that they’ve found a faster, less intrusive, more personal and more ecologically friendly way to go about it. Is it any wonder mainstream media is dying?

    A New Media Book That’s Actually Fun to Read

    The Chaos Scenario cover imageI start lots of books about new media, but I finish very few of them. My ADD is only part of the reason. I often find that authors don’t have much to say beyond a few points that are stated clearly in the first 100 pages or so and repeated for the remaining 200.

    Not so with The Chaos Scenario, the new volume by veteran advertising critic Bob Garfield. I devoured this book and was sorry to see it end. One reason: It is so much fun to read.

    Garfield is a gifted writer and he’s funny as hell. Of the video for OK Go’s YouTube hit “Here It Goes Again,” he writes, “Everyone on earth has seen the video at least four times, except for certain remote areas in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, where several tribesmen had seen only twice.” Or “If it were Japanese steel Google was flooding the market with, instead of kitten videos, it would be called dumping.”

    Such asides are garnish on a viciously insightful treatise on the death of advertising by someone who has the street cred to make that judgment. Garfield’s quarter century of experience qualifies him to say when media is badly broken, which he clearly believes it is.

    In an opening chapter entitled “The Death of Everything,” he documents the implosion of mainstream media channels of every kind under the weight of new-media competition and changing audience behavior. If your CEO still insists on throwing away money on TV ads, put this chapter in front of him.


    Much of the book outlines the principles of “Listenomics,” or the premise that institutions that fail to listen to and engage with their newly empowered customers will die. The power that now exists in the hands of ordinary citizens can humble even the most arrogant corporate giants.

    Among the examples of this Garfield cites is a grassroots campaign called “Comcast Must Die” which he and a core of frustrated cable subscribers mounted in 2007. Through blogs and message boards, an angry mob of customers turned the tables on a giant utility, forcing meaningful change across its vast customer service operation. As besieged Senior VP Rick Germano ultimately admits, “I’m crying ‘uncle’ now.’”

    Bob Garfield

    Bob Garfield

    Garfield believes in the power of the crowd but not necessarily in its wisdom. Chapter 9 (“Off, Off, Off Madison”) presents a scathing indictment of consumer-generated advertising (CGA), which Garfield characterizes as mostly a dull imitation of what non-professionals believe advertising should be.

    “Most CGA has been the stuff of tiny little talents with tiny little budgets pursuing tiny little ideas,” he writes.  Which is not to say that pitting crowds against each other is always a bad thing, as long as the crowds know what they’re doing. Garfield praises CrowdSPRING, a competitive foundry for design professionals that created dozens of choices for the book’s logo for just $500.

    The power of the crowd is not so much to create advertising as it is to keep institutions honest, he asserts. In that respect, the balance of power has completely changed. “Never pick a fight with someone who buys zeros and ones by the barrel,” he writes at the close of the Comcast chapter, “which, nowadays, is everyone.”

    Time to Lego

    The story of Lego Mindstorms is a vivid example of Listenomics at work. The staid Danish company allowed customers to take an active role in turning a marginal product into a global geek megahit. Customers paid their own way to come to Denmark and help Lego build a more profitable business. Crowds are at their best when they help guide brands they like, Garfield asserts, but rarely when they build the products themselves. Brands like Dell Computer and Procter & Gamble are now embracing this idea of customer involvement with a vengeance through initiatives like Dell IdeaStorm and Innocentive.

    The book closes on a somber note, distinguishing itself from the relentlessly upbeat message of many marketing titles. In a chapter entitled “Nobody Is Safe from Everybody” Garfield recites chapter and verse of people whose careers and even lives have been ruined by character assassination, “trolling,” and the sometimes devastating choices of search engines.

    In a world in which less and less information is private, ordinary citizens are increasingly vulnerable to the whims of a malicious few whose vendettas may be artificially magnified by unknown algorithms. “You have very little to fear from 1984, but every reason to quake about Lord of the Flies,” he writes.

    In the final analysis, this clarity is one of the book’s most endearing traits. Garfield isn’t afraid to piss off his critics or to make fun of himself. He also doesn’t hesitate to point out that information democratization is hardly a win-win proposition. It is inevitable though, which is why marketers would do well to heed his well-reasoned advice. “Why, all of a sudden, is it so important to listen?” He asks in the first chapter “Because hardly anyone anymore is listening to you.”

    Businesses That Think Like Publishers

    Media Trust by Pew ResearchIn my BtoB magazine column earlier this year, I suggested that office-supply giant Staples should take advantage of the collapse of mainstream publishing industry to become a trusted media source for small business. Staples hasn’t yet taken the plunge, but a number of other brands have, and I think it’s worth looking at the trend.

    Here’s the premise: Mainstream media is collapsing. This is creating what I call a “trust gap” in the market. Not only are the institutions themselves disappearing but trust in mainstream media at a 20-year low (see Pew Research chart at right).  Social networks can fill some of the void, but not all of it. There is room in the market for new trusted sources to emerge and there is no reason why businesses and institutions, using the tools of new media, can’t step in.

    Early Adopters

    Let’s look at a few examples of what big brands are doing in this area:

    • Bank of America is targeting small businesses with its Small Business Online Community. This operation is heavy on user-generated content, the idea being that small business owners are eager to help each other. Judging by the amount of activity, the site is doing pretty well. Most articles that are more than six months old have several thousand page views. Top contributors are rewarded with a points system that elevates their standing in the community. This is an effective incentive.
    • Not to be outdone, American Express is also going after small businesses with Open Forum. Amex is taking a different approach from Bank of America by relying more heavily on assigned articles from professional writers and business innovators and less on community contributions, although there is room for user generated content. The editors have spotlighted a few frequent contributors and designated them as experts. There’s also a service that helps visitors find small businesses by specialty. That’s a nice incentive to get their target audience involved. Finally, there’s an impressive collection of videos of successful small-business owners who are, naturally, also Amex cardholders.
    • Office Depot covets small businesses, too (see a pattern here?). However, it’s taken an entirely different approach with a Survival of the Smartest, a website that features consumer promotions, contests and discounts. The initiative is an experimental alternative to the hundreds of millions of dollars the retailer spends on circulars Sunday newspaper circulars, according to a recent article in MediaPost. Two video hosts provide an umbrella of entertainment and coupons and promotions help close the deal. There’s also a desktop widget that alerts visitors to new specials.
    • Barnes & Noble Review logoOne interesting initiative that has flown under my radar for some time is Barnes & Noble Review. This elegant looking site has published more than 1,200 book reviews over the last two years and also features columnists and author interviews. It’s a beautiful sight, which I’m sure is no accident. Its design is reminiscent of the Sunday book review sections that have been hacked out of many daily newspapers over the last two years.
    • Perhaps the most direct attack on the traditional media space and I’ve seen this year comes from PepsiCo, which hired a group of bloggers and video podcasters to report on the Internet Week conference last June. In a BrandWeek interview last spring, entitled “Pepsi Sees a Chance to Fill Newspapers’ Void,”  Pepsi social media guru Bonin Bough said the soft drink maker saw opportunity in the demise of traditional media. Pepsi was openly advertising jobs for unemployed journalists and journalism students prior to Internet Week.

    I think this is the tip of the iceberg. Once big brands get over their addiction to increasingly ineffective conventional marketing channels and take advantage of the chance to build new audiences, they will flock to these new opportunities. Advertising is one of the most expensive ways to build customer affinity. In contrast, trusted media brands enjoy customer loyalty that extends for decades. Why would you not want to get a piece of that?

    The Case For Influencer Marketing

    I’ve recently worked with several clients on influencer marketing campaigns. These are proving to be popular new complements to traditional PR programs that approach media relations from a completely different perspective. Influencer relations is gaining popularity as the media landscape shifts and domain experts gain prominence.

    The media industry is slashing and burning its way through a wrenching transition. There have been more than 5,300 layoffs in the US newspaper industry just this year, and three major dailies with a combined total of more than 400 years of continuous publishing, have closed in just last month.

    The situation is just as bad in b-to-b publishing, where more than 275 business magazines have closed since the beginning of 2007, according to BtoB magazine.

    Shifting Influence

    With mainstream media dwindling at the same time the number citizen publishers is rising, it’s not surprising that individual influencers are becoming a promising target. Even professional editors and reporters are increasingly turning their attention to the blogosphere and Twittersphere as a source of expertise and even news. The first place a reporter goes when looking for sources these days is Google. As a result, popular bloggers are suddenly inundated with media inquiries. This is an opportunity for marketers. Some publications are going even recruiting bloggers to contribute to their branded sites. These financially driven actions are having the effect of amplifying the volume of individual voices.

    An influencer relations program seeks to strike up conversations with these domain experts on the assumption that their opinions are reaching increasingly large audiences, both through their own websites and the amplifiers I just described.. This is quite different from a conventional PR campaign, which starts with analysts and journalists on the theory that they are the influencers. We are beginning to rethink this dynamic. Conventional PR will be harder to do in the future as the ranks of staff journalists shrink and the shrinking number who are left struggle with an overwhelming volume of PR pitches.

    In contrast, most bloggers get very few inquiries from marketers, and are more likely to spend time listening to what they have to say. This is a pretty appealing option for marketers who are frustrated with being one of the 300 or 400 daily inquiries an already seriously overworked reporter gets.

    The Human Touch

    So how do you find influencers? There are a number of commercial services that attempt to perform the task programmatically, but my experience has been that they only get you halfway there. It’s not difficult to find someone who writes, podcasts, or tweets about a topic, but assessing that person’s biases and style is an entirely different issue.

    For example, in a recent project for a company with a novel approach to weight loss therapy, we discovered that the topic was more controversial than we thought. Some people have very strong opinions about the subject, and pitching the client’s novel approach to them would have been the equivalent of sticking your hand into a beehive.

    You also can’t assume that domain experts necessarily want to talk about their domain of expertise. In a recent engagement that looked for pharmaceutical researchers, we found that people with Ph.D.s in that area blog about everything from cooking to environmentalism. In fact, only a minority paid much attention to pharmaceuticals at all.

    At this point, there’s no way to ascertain the agenda, biases or voice of influencers without digging in and reading what they have to say. If you don’t do that critical homework, you risk alienating the very people you’re trying to reach. Bloggers expect you to know something about them. Unlike the mainstream media, they don’t understand how the pitch game is played. They know a lot about their subjects and they tend to regard clueless come-ons with disdain.

    For now, there’s no substitute for the human touch when it comes to influencer relations campaigns.

    How to Get Started With Social Media

    The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council held an informative seminar at Communispace this morning entitled “Getting Started with Social Media — Lessons from the Front Lines.” I took notes of the comments by the four speakers and pulled out a few highlights to share:

    perry_allisonPerry Allison (left), Vice President of Social Marketing Innovation at talked about the value of gathering detailed feedback from a small number of people. Referring to a project that Eons conducted with Quaker Oats, she said she was initially concerned that only 80 members of the baby clothes site offered comments. “I thought Quaker wouldn’t be excited about 80 members, because this is a company that advertises on baby items on television to millions. But the brand manager was ecstatic because of the feedback and insight they were getting.” The main thing they advertise is this brand of baby clothes.

    It’s the engagement that gets clients energized, she said. “Advertising currently drives more revenue, but what gets brands most excited is engagement marketing.”

    Allison offered a list of common mistakes that companies make in creating online communities:  “Overloading people with information, not having a clear concept of the goals, not defining a clear value proposition, using marketing speak, and viewing the destination as a thing rather than a process.”  That last point is particularly important.  Markers have been taught to treat campaigns as projects with defined beginnings and ends.  But customer communities, if well managed, can last for years.  The value is in the process, not the deliverable.

    A couple of the panelists commented on the dilemma facing mainstream media organizations today as their power is eroded by the influence of new sources.

    pam_johnstonPam Johnston (left), Vice President of Member Experience at, brought an interesting background to the discussion.  She spent more than 15 years in television news before joining Gather, which means she understands the mainstream media mindset.  The most disruptive force in social media is its ability to define new trusted sources, she said. “People are looking for a trusted source and it may not be the Boston Globe. It may be your neighbor.

    “I can tell you from experience that traditional media don’t want to be a hub,” she said. “They have a top-down mentality: ‘If you want it, you have to come to my site to get it.'”

    Dan Kennedy, Assistant Professor at the Northeastern School Of Journalism and author of the Media Nation blog, was even more blunt about the challenges facing mainstream media. “The question of how news organizations are going to monetize anything they’re doing is the question facing the industry right now. The Boston Globe may have the largest audience its’ ever had and it’s losing $1 million a week,” he said.

    Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, offered a five-step approach to getting started with social media:

    1. Start a blog. It’s a living breathing thing.

    2. Create interesting content. If you do that, people will link to you.

    3. Publish everywhere: Use Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and any other channel you have available.

    4. Optimize for search engines. If you’ve got a good pithy title (Top 10 Tips, anyone?), then publicize it. Make it easy for people to post your content right to Twitter, Digg, Facebook and other destinations.

    5. Measure it. Look at your traffic, page views, unique visitors, time spent on site. That’s how you know whether your hard work is paying off.

    Sound easy? Creating remarkable content isn’t instinctive for everyone. That’s why Gather’s Johnston was dismayed when Burger King backed down last week on its audacious “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign on Facebook. The program got lots of attention for originality, even if its premise – members “unfriended” others in exchange for free hamburgers – was controversial. Burger King yanked the campaign last week over complaints that it was encouraging antisocial behavior.

    “It was probably the most successful campaign Facebook has ever done,” she said. “I thought it was funny and memorable. It got people talking and those are important qualities for a memorable campaign.”

    On the always popular issue of return on investment, Halligan had this to say: “Most of our customers create a LinkedIn group or Facebook page and see, on average, a 13% month-over-month growth in leads. I’d advise jumping into this. You don’t need venture backing to start a Twitter account. If you’ve got time and energy and something to say, then do it.”

    Finally, Halligan got my vote for best quote with this one: “”Marketers are lions looking for elephants in the jungle. But the elephants have all left the jungle and they’re at watering holes out on the savannah. Those watering holes are called Google and Facebook and Twitter and Gather and Eons.”

    So get your tail out of the jungle.

    The Best of '08

    From my weekly newsletter. To subscribe, just fill out the short form to the right.

    At this time of year, many publishers and bloggers do one of two things: look ahead at the future or back at the year just ending. Since Joe Pulizzi, Fast Company and iMedia Connection did a great job at social media predictions, I thought I’d rummage through my digital archives and offer my completely unscientific list of what made this year special for me.

    Best Social Media Tool – That’s easy. It’s Twitter, the super-simple, deceptively powerful micro-blogging service that has people sharing their lives in 140-character increments. If you still don’t get Twitter, I feel your pain, but anyone who wants to practice marketing in the new media world needs to get with the program. If you need help, I’ll get on the phone with your people and tell them why it’s so important.

    Best Social Media Disaster Story — Johnson & Johnson’s well-intentioned Motrin video turned into a PR nightmare thanks to — you guessed it — Twitter. To its credit, J&J earnestly listened, but the marketers’ failure to anticipate negativity and their eagerness to respond too hastily made this a bigger problem than it had to be.

    Best New FaceChris Brogan blew out of the pack to become one of the world’s top bloggers thanks to his prodigious output and shrewd self-promotion. He’ll soon hit 30,000 followers on Twitter and the 14,600 subscribers to his blog are a thing of wonder. I don’t know when the guy finds time to sleep. I’m fortunate to work with him on the New Marketing Summit conference and have a chance to learn from his success.

    Best BookGroundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li broke new ground by attempting to apply research and metrics to social media marketing. The book also told some great stories. Conflict of interest prevents me from choosing my own Secrets of Social Media Marketing, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying it!

    Best New Software Application — In the ranks of software that tries to bring order to the barely contained chaos that is Twitter, TweetDeck does the best job I’ve seen.

    Best Fall to Earth – Forrester reported that corporate enthusiasm for blogging was beginning to wane. That’s not surprising; most big companies do a lousy job of it. Expect retooling and new growth in the new year.

    Best Viral Marketing Success – Cindy Gordon told just seven people about Universal Orlando’s plans to launch a Harry Potter theme park. Word of mouth spread the story to 350 million others in a matter of a couple of days. David Meerman Scott has the story.

    Best New Product – The Apple iPhone 3G became the first true mobile Internet device and sold 3 million units in its first month. Expect plenty of new competition in 2009, which is only going to be good for consumers.Nokia has yet to play its cards.

    Best Podcast – In the archives of the MediaBlather program that I do with David Strom, there were too many good interviews to choose just one. Among my favorites of 2008 were Mommycast, Brains on Fire/Fiskars, IDG’s Pat McGovern, Eric Schwartzman, Shel Israel and Brian Halligan of HubSpot. I think the most interesting podcast I listened to all year was Schwartzman’s interview with search-engine optimization expert Russell Wright.

    Most Useful Blog Entry – Interactive Insights Group created a superlist of organizations using social media. You can find practically any case study on the Web by starting there. We have yet to hear what Tamar Weinberg has up her sleeve, though! Her 2007 superlist was a thing of beauty.

    Best Article on the Media – The International Herald Tribune’s “Web Ushers in Age of Ambient Intimacy” explained the visceral appeal of Twitter and Facebook with admirable clarity. Eric Alterman’s epic examination of the collapse of the newspaper industry in The New Yorker was magnificent in its detail and insight.

    Best Just For Fun – The most popular item in my newsletter is the squib about some crazy new Web resource we’ve found. Here are two of my favorites of 2008:

    People always celebrate success, but they don’t give enough credit to really creative failure. Thank goodness, then, for The Fail Blog, a photographic tribute to failures big and small. Don’t look at this site in the office. Your colleagues will wonder why you’re laughing so hard. And don’t, under any circumstances, view it while you’re drinking milk, if you know what I mean…

    Buddy Greene is the Yo-Yo Ma of the harmonica, and in this amazing clip from a Carnegie Hall concert, he will change forever your impressions of the capability and range of this tiny instrument.

    Recommended Reading, 12/24/08

    A new study study by advertising firm MS&L’s influencer-marketing unit reveals that some 84% of digital influencers go online to find out more about something only after first reading about it in magazines and newspapers or hearing about it on TV or the radio. This is startling news. What’s even more startling is that the Ad Age story says nothing more about this finding, instead concentrating the rest of the story on Web behavior.

    Ace Keeps Pace With Social Grace Of Virals

    Consumers clearly like online vehicles that let them personalize silly messages. Ace Hardware’s “Ace Your Face” campaign allows users to upload photos and craft them into a wide selection of customized holiday scenes that the company itself describes as over-the-top and kitschy. The site attracted 60,000 people in its first two weeks, and the number is expected to build as the holidays near.

    Meanwhile, OfficeMax’s classic “Elf Yourself” holiday promotion is running strong after three years. In the first three weeks of this campaign, 57 million people have personalized their elves. 

    Taxes Less Scary Than Search Campaigns

    73% of small business owners said they would rather take a stab at filing their taxes than set up a search marketing plan. Big fears: complexity and click fraud.

    Pod Hotel Launches Closed Social Network

    People planning to stay in New York’s Pod Hotel can now join a private social network that’s limited to guests who have already booked one of the hotel’s 347 rooms, which run between $99 and $200. Quoting: “On the site they can network with other guests weeks before their stay, coordinating meet-ups through common and pre-conceived experiences like “Drink with Me,” “Eat with Me,” “Shop with Me,” and “Go Out with Me.”” Apparently, this networking with total strangers is very popular, as the hotel’s revenues have jumped 400% in two years.

    Superlist of What NOT To Do In Social Media

    List of blunders and advice on how to avoid them

    Overdrive Interactive has a nice clickable map of the best social media resources. It’s dense but well organized.

    'Tis the Season For Predictions

    Here are summaries of a couple of social media-related forecast stories that have come across my screen recently.

    Eight Experts Predict How Web 2.0 Will Evolve In 2009

    You won’t find a lot of big surprises here, but there’s good solid consensus on some driving trends.

    • One is that there will be a strong move toward federated identity that gives control of the user’s data back to the user. It’s ridiculous that people have to create 20 different profiles for 20 different social networks. We should be in charge of our own data and decide how to share it with others.
    • Another theme is that mobile devices will become more location-aware, meaning that applications will deliver targeted results based upon where the user is standing. There’s also general agreement that the Web 2.0 industry is ripe for consolidation. That’s true, but what I believe will be surprising is how minor that consolidation will be, particularly compared to the great dot-com collapse of 2001-2002. Many of today’s successful networks run on a shoestring and will be able to weather the economic storm because their operating costs are so low.
    • One seer from Google’s mapping operations also sees the rise of “collaborative mapping,” in which people working together with friends and colleagues build shared maps of places they care about.

    Experts’ predictions for 2009

    iMedia Connection asks six marketing and advertising executives about their predictions for 2009. While there aren’t many surprises, some of the panelists’ views are notably well stated. Highlights:

    • Investment and commercial banks left standing will turn to the internet to engage consumers in conversations about trust.
    • Marketers will start to look at the social networking opportunity as a way to extend utility and functionality with their brand attached to it…This means giving people tools to use rather than just throwing a message in their faces.
    • “Traditional” media companies have been actively incorporating social media into their online offerings for years and finding that it leads to greater levels of consumer involvement with content. The result is that, on places such as,, the HealthCentral Network or iVillage, marketers can reap the benefits of the dynamic social media experience, while doing so in a safe, high-quality environment.
    • In 2009, expect to see closed caption technology being used to understand the content of the video clip and that content being matched with relevant advertising on a keyword basis.

    Tonight’s Full Moon is Brightest Possible

    Tonight the world will witness the brightest full moon ever: about 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger than the other full moons this year. This is because the moon is much closer to the earth than usual. The moon comes closest to the earth during its perigee, but this year the actual distance from the planet will be shorter than usual.