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Monday, August 18, 2008

And Now A Commerical Break

I don't often talk about products on my blog but I've been impressed with how Jive software does both their software and their engagement in the communities that are important to them.

Now that they are releasing their Clearspace 2.5 product, I'm willing to give a heads up that it's available.

Also, having seen some of their demos (though without actually using it) I get the sense that they have really thought about what social networking features really make sense in an enterprise-class collaboration application.

So, if you're interested in Jive, check out Clearspace 2.5.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympics Online Coverage Tied to TV

I just had a strange experience at the NBC Olympics site. I was interested in watching some of the live coverage online, since NBC TV was showing the women's marathon (which I find boring to watch). So clicked on one of the Live links and was told that I didn't have the right package with NBCs television partners to access their live online content.

But then asked with a simple drop-down if I had a different package than the basic antenae it indicated. Selecting a different option then allowed me to access the coverage. And, while watching I was still pushed ads during what would be TV Commercial breaks.

To me this seems like another example of protecting turf. Hiding online content behind a wall unless you're already a subscriber to offline services. Similar to how the NYTimes used to have Select content protected. Or how some magazines require a physical subscription.

Now, I don't consider myself the type that all content should be free. But it seems that NBC has a real chance to extend their audience beyond typical television viewers, especially because of how little they are actually able to show on their television stations.
On the other hand, if they aren't selling separate sponsorship opportunities for online coverage then they probably don't want to encourage too much viewing Live online.

But, if they really wanted to keep their content protected, a drop-down menu is not the most secure way.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to freeload a little more tonight.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Social Media in any color! (So long as it's black)

Two voices in marketing and communications that I admire, Ike Pigott and Mack Collier were having a discussion about the state of social media. Since I don't have a good way to collect the tweets, you can search for trendspotters, and SM Evangelists to get some context.

The recap is that they were talking about looking at social media now and extrapolating that.

Some of the points that surfaced that I found particularly interesting to mull over were:

  • Social media is still in the Model-T stage as an industry. It's a breakthrough but the current tools still need to be refined. Of course, because it's easier to make online social tools than offline automobiles we are seeing a broader variety of models... if not not a great range of colors.
  • Building on that thought, Social Media can easily be overblown by SM evangelists who want to use social media to solve all problems. The current boundaries of SM need to be understood and respected.
  • And adding to that thought, for people engaged in SM it feels like a very big space but there are still large majorities of people that aren't 'engaging' through the Web2.0 tools that are synonimous with SM. (That's not to say they aren't engaging in other ways)
  • But, finally, recognizing that all these factors don't mean that Social Media doesn't portend a major shift in how we communicate. Just as the history of the car has shown what can grow out of a single model car, the Model-T, social media is just beginning to write it's own history.

I won't try to prognosticate on what the future will bring but I will say that I'm trying to learn what I can now and understand how to make SM worthwhile for both a personal and business applications.

What are you doing to prepare for the future?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Are Marketing and Hard Skills Oxymorons?

I attended SocialMediaCamp Austin this week (and the Mashable Summer Mash party afterwards). This was perfect timing after my recent move to Austin I've been wanting to meet people down here. And did I ever. Lots of great people here in Austin with some interesting things going on.

But, the point of this post is to examine something I heard in one of the morning sessions at SMCamp by Scott Allen. Unfortunately, my notes are sketchy because I was trying (fruitlessly) to connect to the (nonexistant) WiFi. But, his topic was on developing stronger 'soft' skills in Marketing, specifically around building strong relationships with prospects and customers through online media.

He made some good points about as communicators we need to make sure that we're able to get through to people, especially as these channels become more common for personal and business use. It's has always been important for marketers to understand people generally, now we are going to need to be able to understand people individually.

And the point about soft skills has finally spurred me to write a post that I've had kicking around my head for a while.
Marketers should also cultivate some hard skills. My definition for 'hard skill' is something that must be formally studied, learned, and practiced to be usable. (Like most of these 10 skills.)

The question then are what kinds of skills should marketers be developing?

The answer is that there are plenty of areas in marketing that having actual skillsets will help you shine. A few of the ones that affect my work are:

  1. Writing -- Seriously, if you aren't practicing your writing skills often, and preferably more than just long-winded emails, then you should get cracking. The ability to write well, on deadline, and about diverse topics puts you ahead of many people, even in this industry.
  2. Search Engines -- I have a confession. When I interviewed for my current job 3.5 years ago and was asked if I knew about search engine marketing, my response was "Oh yes, I use Google for searching all the time." As I have learned in the past 3 years, there are technical, tactical, and strategic aspects to SEM/SEO that require much more than typing words into the search box.
  3. Web Analytics -- With analytics becoming more and more common, and simple to set-up, having even a basic understanding is within anyone's grasp. And, if you're a nerd like me, you can dig past general traffic numbers and start looking at the deeper patterns. Analytics are a great way to dust off your critical thinking skills, if you need to.
  4. Email -- To be specific, I don't just mean putting together the layout. I mean understanding how clients render emails differently. Knowing what CSS is supported (or not, thanks for nothing Outlook '07). Knowing what 'deliverability' means and how it affects your mailings.
  5. HTML/CSS -- I write a lot of our Web content (there's that writing again) and will occasionally have to wrestle with our CMS to get things looking just right. Because I work for a small business, I'm also responsible for our site templates. And believe me, even knowing what I'm doing it's scary to go mess around with those.
  6. Advertising -- This can go two ways. Either honing your visual creative skills with programs like Photoshop, or understanding the back-end of how ads are sold, delivered and tracked.
  7. Other Departments -- Learn something about the other departments in your company. When I worked in direct mail, I was on the client services side but found it very valuable to my job to learn about the production processes, even working on the line for some of our machines. That experience was invaluable as I tried to plan the most efficient ways to complete projects for my clients.
I'm sure that there are plenty of other skills, especially if you're more on the business side, that you can develop. But the point that I want to make is that as relationships become more important, and as communication between customers and companies continues to open, marketers will have a huge opportunity to be facilitators.

The best way to position ourselves to be ready for that transition is to learn skills outside our specific job functions. We need to be, if not fluent than at least conversational, in the languages of other departments that will be interacting with our potential customers.

Please leave your comments on any other skills, either in marketing or out, that you have learned, or feel would be important to learn.