A three-hour tour of Internet marketing

Hands up – who’s excited by the expansion of commercial television into new digital TV stations? Hmmm, as I suspected, not many hands….

I’m still struggling to understand the business model behind digital TV: It seems to be cannibalising your own audience and that of your direct competitors by broadcasting long-forgotten or obscure TV shows.

However, there is one good thing about digital TV; It’s introduced a whole new generation to the shows their parents wasted their time on when they were young.

One of my favourite shows growing up was Gilligan’s Island, the tale of a fateful group of castaways whose three-hour boat tour around Honolulu turned into a shipwrecked adventure that lasted for what seemed decades but was, in fact, three seasons.

Although the plotlines were as shallow as the island’s lagoon, when I watch the old episodes again after all these years, I can see some parallels, strangely enough, to modern-day business. For example, here are five lessons from Gilligan’s Island that can be applied to Internet marketing.

1. Be distinct, and be consistent.

Gilligan’s Island is full of archetypes – the gruff but lovable captain, his bumbling but well-meaning first mate, the unreconstructed capitalist couple, the geek, the glamourous woman and the girl next door.

You might love them or you might hate them, but you know what to expect from each of the archetypal characters in every episode. Gilligan is not going to behave like an intellectual, and Thurston Howell III is not going to become a tree-hugger; they all act in a way every week that matches their distinct character.

Online, as well as in traditional marketing, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors, by presenting your own distinct proposition to customers. And you need to consistently deliver that proposition, whether it’s your focus on customer service, your playful humour, or even the style and colour of your logo.

2. Embrace technological change

Just as the Professor improved the lives of people on the island by developing coconut telephones, a bicycle-powered radio and a hot water system, you need to be prepared to continually seek out new ways of doing things. Today, that means making sure everything you do is mobile-optimised; think of how your customers want to interact with your business out of home and develop your online offering accordingly.

Read the full story on Smarter Business Ideas

More social media tools than you can stick a pin into

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So you think you’ve finished your studies? You may have graduated years ago, but let me tell you, in today’s economy, school is never out.

If you don’t have it already, you need to develop a philosophy of life-long learning. Things are changing much too fast to rely simply on what you learned at uni or TAFE.

For example, whether you’re a small or a large business, you can’t stick your head in the sand and ignore trends like social media. That means not only mastering existing tools, but staying abreast of emerging tools, as well.

It’s pretty clear that most businesses should have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. But when it comes to using some of the newer social media tools for your business, how do you pick a winner? You need to look at factors such as the take-up rate, how it integrates with other tools, and whether it offers something that is not only different, but hopefully useful, as well.

Google+ is one on the cusp (though, supported by and integrated with the raft of Google tools, it’s a pretty safe bet that it will be there for the long haul).

The location-based tool Foursquare, used by more than 15 million people who check in at locations and share their visits with friends, has had a lot of publicity and has attracted venture capital investment. But how important is it to people to become the ‘mayor’ of frequently visited spots? Are people using it mainly to make their friends jealous about where they can afford to go on a holiday?

A tool that I think ticks more of the boxes is Pinterest, an online pinboard service that, in the words of CBS Moneywatch, “attracts people who need to organize the chaos of Internet-age information overload.”

Pinterest describes itself as a social network meant to connect everyone in the world through the things that they find interesting.

The site lets you create and curate multiple pinboards in any category you can create, as well as following others’ pinboards. It falls somewhere between window shopping and actual collecting. You can log on through Twitter or Facebook, so you can tell your friends and customers about your boards.

At the same time, In contrast to Facebook, Pinterest pinners may end up choosing to follow people they don’t know purely based on the photos they curate, creating seemingly random new networks.

Read the full article on Smarter Business Ideas

A digital native title dispute

By Ray Welling

In the competition between digital natives – Gen Y, which has grown up with online technology and digital immigrants – those of us who can remember typewriters and phones with cords attached – for primacy online, it seems that the digital natives have gained the upper hand.

Think Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, and a billion dollar online empire by the time he reached his mid-20s) vs. Rupert Murdoch (MySpace, phone hacking scandals, declining dead tree media empire). Or Natalie Tran (24-year old Australian vlogger with 156,000 Twitter followers, more than 400 million YouTube views and a cozy career in the making) against say, Tony Abbott (50-something Australian politician with 56,000 Twitter followers but no YouTube channel).

If you read the media reports on what’s hot on the web, there appears to be a strong relationship between a lack of history and Internet success.

But it’s not that simple.

It can be useful to have a long-term view of the online world, which only a seasoned digital immigrant can have. If you can combine that with knowledge of traditional, pre-Internet business principles, you can look past current fads and build a business model that’s sustainable.

For example, the current obsession with whatever is the latest online application exploding in the public consciousness ignores the fragile nature of web success.

With all the current talk of community-building and developing personal relationships, you’d think the concept was invented by Facebook. Digital natives may be too young to remember, but digital immigrants will recall that when MySpace burst on the scene, it was seen as the long-term future of social media. That is, until Facebook came along.

Early digital immigrants can go back even further and remember GeoCities, an online community where people could create personal pages and create a following of fans, which was all the buzz way back in the 20th century.

And consider the power and ubiquity of the Google empire. It may be hard for digital natives to fathom a time pre-Google, but digital immigrants can remember when Yahoo! was seen as the impregnable leader in search (As an aside, it used its cash reserves to buy GeoCities back in 1999), a crown it took from the equally-invulnerable Alta Vista.

Read the full story on Smarter Business Ideas

Jim Morrison and the importance of relevance

From my NETT blog:

What are the most important factors to consider when you’re communicating ideas to people? How do you get your message across successfully?

From my days as a journalist writing for newspapers and magazines through to my current work presenting digital marketing messages or lecturing to students, a few common themes have emerged in terms of what works consistently.

Actually, I exaggerate – there is really just one fundamental rule in successful communication: make your concept relevant to your target audience.

This is expressed as a couple of acronyms:

• WIFFM – what’s in it for me?
• WSIC – why should I care?

If you can understand what matters to your audience and work out how to relate your message to their concerns, you’ll get your point across.

This principle isn’t limited to written, visual or verbal communication messages: it extends to the communication of ideas, and can include the dissemination of those ideas through a variety of media.

Take music, for example. My favourite band of all time is the Doors, led by the late great Jim Morrison. The Doors tapped into the Zeitgeist of the 1960s with music that protested against traditional mores.

Their sometimes dark messages about love, fitting in and pushing back against parental barriers struck a chord with young Baby Boomers who were just starting to flex their muscles and question the structures of the world that they were inheriting.

Read the full story

Business time for content providers

Here’s an excerpt from a blog I posted on Zazoo this week:

“There has been a lot of debate in journalistic circles of late about the state of denial most journalists and media academics are in regarding new media.

“A recent blog on Poynter.org recounted an exchange between digital media entrepreneur Elizabeth Overholser and journalism students at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism. Osder refuted one student’s lament that online news business models aren’t working. Then she advised the students that to figure out which online business models can work, ”Start with the impact you want to have. Figure out what audience you need to assemble to have that impact. And what kind of content is needed to do that. Then price it out: How much money do you need to do it?”

“According to Overholser, a J-student groaned in reply, “If I wanted to do that, I’d have gone to Marshall (USC’s business school).”

“Osder countered that while that response was understandable, thinking through the business side of journalism “forces you to be relevant and useful versus arrogant and entitled.”

“I say: hear, hear!….”

Go here for the rest of the entry.

Journalists: Business is not a dirty word

At the Future of Journalism Conference at Harvard last week, 100 journalism researchers and professors heard repeated messages that the mainstream media must embrace, not fight, the blogosphere and that serious reporting can survive by catering to niche audiences. Here is a summary of a report on the conference from the journalism institute Poynter.org (the full report is here).

Carl Sessions Stepp, a University of Maryland journalism professor, said journalists should consider themselves entrepreneurs and find ways to make more money from existing news services like archives. From Gutenberg to Google, he added, “Young marginal upstarts with great ideas is a journalistic tradition.”

Robert G. Picard from Sweden’s Jonkoping University, said that although journalists hate the words “business” and “money,” they must develop new revenue streams. He said news organizations should abandon their “all you can eat buffet” offerings of mediocre coverage of all subjects. Instead, Picard said, they should provide higher quality news for smaller audiences, present information in various media, and reuse and reconfigure existing content.

Clyde Bentley, a Missouri School of Journalism professor, said, “we’ve had our head in the sand” about the blogosphere’s impact.

The debate over bloggers’ influence “is over,” he said. “Blogging is a numbers game. It’s there and we’ll just have to deal with it.” Noting that 120,000 new blogs a day dwarf the country’s 1,427 dailies, he said editors should treat the blogosphere like a giant wire service.

Bentley said that while consumer demand for content decreases, their demand for content navigation increases. “There will always be a place for the journalist who can craft a story better than anyone else, but there will be a bigger place for the journalist who can help media consumers find the information they want.”