The Biggest Challenge during a Twitter Chat

Having co-hosted #LeadershipChat for several months now (with my partner-in-crime, @LisaPetrilli), and having also participated in other chats as well, I can tell you that the biggest challenge – in my opinion – is not the technology, nor is it the speed and volume of information.

It’s semantics.

Semantics has to do with the meaning, or interpretation, of a word or phrase.

Last night on LeadershipChat, we were discussing “macho-style” leadership in a business setting. Now, one thing Lisa and I do before each Tuesday night chat is we each write a blog post, giving our views on the upcoming topic and, hopefully, framing the discussion. We try to explain/define terms. But, nonetheless, we all come into a conversation with pre-baked notions, images, and experiences that attach to certain terms. Which means that, without fail, when we have a chat about concepts like macho-ness or vulnerability or vision or whatever, we often end up during the chat struggling with semantics.

A challenge made even more difficult by the 140-character limitations of each tweet, and the rapid flow of contributions!

We end up, as a group, sometimes sharing dictionary definitions, bouncing clarifications off one another (is an alpha-male the same as a macho man? Is macho-posturing gender-specific?). In certain ways, these are quite valuable exchanges, but at times I think a chat can get bogged down by spending an inordinate amount of time clarifying terms; or, as regularly happens, talking “past” each other by using the same term in different ways.

Any I don’t have an answer for this. Just putting it out there. Your perspectives? Is there a way to make this better?

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The Rebirth of Conversation

I really enjoyed Mitch Joel’s recent post (The End of Conversation in Social Media), and a few other posts touching on the same theme (by Dave Winer, Leo Laporte, and Joseph Jaffe).

Instead of just spinning our wheels about whether or not we’re really having solid conversational engagement on blogs, Twitter, etc., it seems to me that we could better spend our energy fixing the problem.

I’m betting some smart little start-up could pull off a cool alpha version in 8 weeks.

What we need is a platform that overcomes the asynchronous aspect of blogs/Twitter/Facebook etc., AND allows us to have smaller, more intimate conversations with a select few. Here’s how it could work.

Your Twitter (or Facebook, or LinkedIn….) contacts are imported. The user is able to classify each contact into one of say, 4 categories (Intimate; Friend; Acquaintance; Waved-at-your-avatar-in-passing-once-or-twice).

Let’s say you have 1/2 hour one night that you’d like to devote to REAL, real-time conversation. When you login, the platform detects who is on-line, sorting them by your levels of familiarity. You can choose to be in the lounge (wide-open room, like Twitter or a tweetchat), or in a private room. If you choose to have a conversation with one or a few friends (pre-planned or spontaneous), you take it into a room, which can then remain open for others, or closed off.

So, I might login, and see that my friend Lisa Petrilli is having a conversation with Liz Strauss and Tom Martin. All of these are already close friends of mine (Intimates), and I see that the link shows that the door is “open” – so I join in. But if this was a private session for just those three, I wouldn’t even see it.

A conversation struck up in the lounge could easily move to a private room, of course – and people hanging out in the lounge can be privately invited to a smaller-scale conversation in a side room when the participants see that this friend has logged in.

I guess you could also have a setting where a group could conduct a conversation/interview and others could “lurk” but not participate.

We wouldn’t go to this platform to promote blog posts or share links (primarily). It’s for conversation. A tie-in to video and/or audio Skype would be a huge bonus.

Really, this is not new technology. It’s a marriage of existing capabilities we already have. But it’s a scalable and controllable way to bring real-time interaction back to social networking.

What do you think?

(Update 1: Jaffe points out that much of what is described above is built into the design of Second Life. True – but what we need [in my opinion] is that approach without the confusing overhead of the 3-D interface. Simple, fast, mobile-friendly.)

(Update 2: here’s an interesting new app under development that does part of this, AND includes a “local” aspect – nice!)

(Update 3: Mike Sansone picks up the theme that blogging is still very much alive at the center of networking – a perspective with which I agree)

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Product: Winner. Name: Loser.

(fade in to Toshiba’s boardroom, where a product management meeting is taking place)

“Looks like we’ve just come up with the best netbook out there! Power, features, great user design – now all we have to do is name it and sell it!”

“I know! – let’s call it the PU-875-0988b!”

“Nah, I’ve always been inclined toward the UmmWillatriBBle 876. It just rolls off the tongue!”

“Wait – let’s call in our engineers! They always come up with the most imaginative names…”

NetbookAnd now, introducing the Toshiba NB205-N310. As reviewed here by the WSJ, a nice entry into the Netbook marketplace. Yet once again, horribly named by the What, me Worry? school of product branding. Sexy. Memorable. Gotta go out and tell all my friends about the NB205-N… NB2o M16… AB365… never mind.

When will these people learn???

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Good-bye, Social Media – Hello, Networked Communications

So, today Steve Rubel announces that he is done “blogging”, and now is fully committed to a more full-faceted path called “lifestreaming.” His post is titled So Long, Blogging, Hello Lifestreaming!

What he’s doing is, in fact, not that radical – we’ve been moving rapidly in this direction for a while. Because the fact is – the real issue isn’t whether we “blog” or “micro-blog” or “Tweet” or “Facebook” or whatever. Those terms and brands are temporary labels we have for the early-on way we’re now using technology to…share. To express ourselves, and connect with others.

We’re evolving rapidly in ability to share, not just via long-form formats (books, blogs), but also quick thoughts, pictures, videos, music, and whatever else. Each of these things ended up with their own terms, and have been ranged roughly under the moniker “social media.”

I’d like to adapt Steve’s title to say good-bye to social media. The term, that is; which really isn’t adequate to describe what we’re doing. For some professionals, the term “social” is an immediate turnoff. And we’re sharing more than media – we’re communicating/connecting/collaborating in multi-faceted ways. There is a social element to it, of course, and media is part of this gig. But the term isn’t scalable.

So….hello, Networked Communications. That, in fact, in all facets, and no matter how it evolves, is what we’re doing, on both personal and professional levels. Whether it’s community-building, tweeting, sharing media, marketing, lifestreaming – it’s all networked communications (which, by the way, includes the off-line component of how we relate to one another).

We’re going to burn through existing and new platforms over the coming years, and they’ll get more sophisticated in their abilities to let us network and communicate. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Posterous, blogs, Flickr (perhaps even my dream platform, Metamee) – the bits and pieces  don’t really matter, they’ll evolve and converge. Each of them is an Expression and/or Connection Engine, all enabling our brave new world of networked communications. Which is same world of networked communications we used to have, amped up on tech steroids.

We’ve always communicated. We’ve always had and built networks. Now we have quickly-evolving tools that will let us more effectively express ourselves and connect with others, for marketing, for fun, for socializing, for enterprise efficiency, for help…for whatever we do.

Good-bye, “social media.” You were a nice first love. You’re not going to die, you’re becoming bigger and better. But with upgraded capabilities come better titles. I’m moving on to Networked Communications. ‘Cause that’s what we do.

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Marketing R.I.P.? Consumer R.I.P.?

consumer-rip.jpgA post over at Brandflakes for Breakfast linked to a provocative article at This blog sits at the site, with the slightly self-important title of Death of Marketing? The issue being addressed is whether the term Marketing is truly relevant and accurate anymore. Should it be replaced? The discussion in the comments is lively and thoughtful.

A couple of the comments resurrected one of my pet peeves – not so much regarding the term Marketing, but the far more offensive (to me, anyway) term Consumer. I’ve posted on that in the past – including the difficulty of finding a substitute.

Maybe there’s hope, however. Here’s a summary of my comments on the Death of Marketing post:

    I, too, have despised the term “consumer” (finding it to be demeaning, and lacking in the crucial emphasis on choice) for quite a while, and wracked my brain for a suitable substitute…with little success. However, revisiting the challenge today, how about the word ADOPTER – which emphasizes two important truths:
    1. it contains the word “opt” – and all promotion must recognize that the potential customer is one who opts, or makes choices.
    2. it implies the ongoing relationship to a brand/offering – if I, as a customer, adopt an offering, that means I may well be a continual user, and an influencer of others.
    As for marketing – I agree that that term has to be driven by a change of view regarding the first term. If my efforts are targeting a potential “adopter,” not a “consumer,” does that change how I view my role and the nature of my work?

What are your thoughts on these terms? Are they still useful? Should we “adopt” new ones?

(The idea of the customized tombstone I shamelessly ripped off from the Brandflakes folks. You can have lots of fun making custom-generated signs here.)

A keen grasp of the obvious

I saw this pathetic example of empty verbal calories in the WSJ today. Read the following sentence and make a mental score, on a scale of 1-100, of the brainpower expended to generate this stellar insight:

“We see consumers as the most important part of the fashion food chain because they are the ones who are ultimately buying the product,” says (I’ll leave out the name and company to spare the embarrassment).

Golly gee whiz – you mean the actual BUYER is the crucial link here? Why, oh why didn’t I pursue that MBA so I’d have been instructed in these finer points!?!

And by the way, am I the only one in the world that actually despises the term “consumer“? I find the term to be demeaning, depersonalizing, and ultimately unhelpful. Problem is, I have yet to come up with a different term that somehow also incorporates the ideas of intelligent decision-making and well as usage. Customer, client, user, purchaser – all of them have flaws and limits as a general term, though they are not as offensive as consumer. Anyone else have ideas for a “consumer replacement”?

What is Branding?

What do I mean by___________?

In every discussion, it’s important to agree on use of words; or, if there is not agreement, to at least define terms.

Marketing, branding, positioning, identity, promotion….these terms all get thrown around, often without a clear understanding of what is being conveyed.

So, without pretending to be some kind of oracle, here is how I define these terms. I wish I could guarantee that I’ll use them consistently, but we have to start somewhere!

Of the 4 P’s of Marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion), my sweet spot is Promotion. When I use the term Marketing, I’m generally thinking of Promotion.

The starting point for any organization/company/person is Identity. I see Identity as the philosophy, culture, offerings, people and promised value of the organization (which may be anything from one person to a global corporation).

Identity answers the questions, “Who are you?” and “What can you do for me?”

Next comes Branding. Branding, in my view, is the expression, projection, and experience of the organizational identity and its promised value. It has at least these three components:

- The Brand itself is the inward perception, in the mind of the customer (user, prospect, employee, member), of the value of the organization and its offerings.
- Brand image is the construct and projection of the identity; the names, symbols, words, messages, and other images that express, and attach to, the organizational identity and its promised value.
- Brand experience is the accumulation of validating or invalidating interactions with the organization and its promised value.

Branding answers the question, “Why should I be attached to you?”

Closely related to branding is Positioning. I see the main distinction as one of context: positioning has to do with how a specific brand or offering is perceived within the context of the marketplace. There is a reality to positioning – a brand or offering can actually occupy a specific space in the market – and a perception of that positioning in the mind of the customer. Positioning is defining one’s place relative to the overall landscape, and effectively gaining mindshare as, hopefully, the best provider of value in that space.

Positioning answers the question, “Where are you?” or, “Where do you fit?”

Establishing Identity is hard work. It takes a strong dose of self-awareness, keen appreciation of core competencies (and humble awareness of non-competencies), and, usually, some external and objective assistance to provide analysis and help define the value proposition. When talking to clients and partners, this is always my starting point. It doesn’t make much sense to come up with a promotional campaign when there is no foundation on which to rest the message. Positioning actually comes next. Assuming there is a valid value proposition, how does it “fit” within the marketplace of other offerings and brands? Finally, (if there is not a pre-existing brand), the brand image can be developed and rolled out.

The goal of all of this is four-fold:

- Brand awareness – getting the attention of the customer(s) in an effective manner

- Brand engagement – interaction of the customer(s) with the brand leading to a positive result

- Brand attachment – ongoing usage of the brand by the customer(s) with settled positive feelings

- Brand evangelism – customers motivated to share the positive brand experience with others

. . . all leading, of course, to world domination in some form or fashion!

Anyone who has read books and articles on marketing/branding/positioning will quickly recognize that these concepts are not original or unique; I’ve simply tried to paint a more comprehensive picture that gives each term a sensible place.

Impactiviti’s core competencies in this value chain (solo or in concert with other marketing providers) include Identity definition, Positioning strategy, and the early stages of Brand image creation, along with some levels of on-line strategy and tactics. The actual execution of most tasks related to a promotional initiative are best handled by other specialized providers, within or outside of Impactiviti’s network of partners.

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Impactiviti provides strategic consulting services to increase brand impact.

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