Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday's Links: This Week...On Monday!

Most Fridays I compile a short sampling of links that have tickled my interest that week. With Thanksgiving and four glorious days of football watching, I regret that this post was delayed until today. With that said...

Can you really see who viewed your Facebook profile? Rogue application spreads virally. - no, no you can't install a program to see who viewed your Facebook profile. Its. A. Trap.

Google buys Groupon for $2.5 billion? - No one knows...but everyone is assuming...

10 Ways to Be a Better Manager - I find myself at on a regular basis to read their how-to style business articles.

The Algorithm + the Crowd are Not Enough -just read this compelling post about the limits of the current model for web applications...and the return of the editor? Could it be? Read a sample here:

Why does a page rank first in Google for a particular query? Why does one link stay on Reddit’s homepage for hours while another, with a similar number of votes, fall off in just a few minutes? Why does Facebook show me ads for customer service jobs at Comcast? Why did Amazon recommend buying whole milk with this Badonkadonk Land Cruiser?
If we don’t understand why these suggestions were made, couldn’t that bias us against trusting future recommendations from these services?

Fred Wilson recently  made a compelling case that we shouldn’t invest in something we don’t understand:
…sectors of the venture capital market are filling up with investors chasing returns. And some of them do not understand what they are investing in. I got a call a few weeks ago from an individual investor who wanted to invest in one of our portfolio companies. He asked about the company and from his questions it was pretty clear he did not understand the business very well. He went ahead and made an offer to invest. That scared me.
I’ve been visited recently by a number of foreign investment vehicles, many of whom are investing billions of dollars of sovereign wealth. They all want to get into our funds and our deals. When I talk to them about why, they can’t really articulate a cogent argument about the economic potential of the social web. But they see the returns and want some of them too. That scares me.

I’d argue that some people will find it equally hard, and perhaps similarly foolish to trust suggestion/ranking services whose algorithms they can’t understand. These same people might turn to recommendation sources they can easily grasp and results they can logically dissemble.
My point isn’t that Google, Netflix, Amazon, Yelp or any of the others are doomed. But I do think there’s an opportunity brewing for entrepreneurs, websites and companies to add editorial components to the algo-crowd paradigm.

Overview of B2B Social Media Applications- Marc Hausman

If you haven't already read the post, Marc Hausman, CEO of Strategic Communications Group, lays out the three main B2B applications for social media.

They are:
  1. Social Media for PR
  2. Social Media for Corporate Positioning
  3. Social Media for Sales

"During the past four years, Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) has designed, executed and evaluated nearly 40 social media campaigns for the world’s largest, fastest growing and most successful technology companies.  Our clients have included global brands such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, EMC, Sun Microsystems, British Telecom, NeuStar, Monster and BearingPoint, as well as emerging vendors like Merchant Link, Cimcor, ePok and govWin.

While the practice and influence of social media can be applied across the organization, our experience teaches us there are primarily three high-value viable applications of social in a B2B environment."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Straight to the Point Podcast: Hank Dearden of Capital Cabal

When I joined Strategic Communications Group almost seven years ago to head up the firm's marketing and business development efforts, one of the first tasks I had to take on was identifying venues where I could interact with local technology and marketing executives. The year was 2004, and most of the tech networking events in DC had been swept away by the dot-com bust. However, a revival was about to occur, lead by one man, Hank Dearden.

I'm happy that Hank has taken some time to sit down with me and share his experiences standing up and growing a professional networking organization, The Capital Cabal. While I am very much a proponent of social media and online communications as a way to develop and maintain relationships, in person interaction is absolutely key to any B2B or B2G sales and marketing campaign.

What did we cover?
  • How important are networking events in the DC area?
  • What are the marketing strategies he used to grow 2nd Tuesday with little to no budget?
  • How important is it to include off-line or face-to-face (FTF) events in your overall marketing mix?
  • Is the DC area tech community strong and growing or still suffering from the effects of the recession?

Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio...

or just click play...

Listen to internet radio with JeffMajka on Blog Talk Radio

Off Topic: Blood Glacier

Well, of all the crazy things I have ever seen, this may take the cake. A bleeding glacier?

Nope. Its iron rich water created by bacteria in an underground lake. Really...

Read the story here: Extreme Weirdness: Antarctica’s “Blood Falls”

A bleeding glacier. Discovered in 1911 by a member of Robert Scott’s ill-fated expedition team, its rusty color was at first theorized to be caused by some sort of algae growth. Later, however, it was proven to be due to iron oxidation. Every so often, the glacier spews forth a clear, iron-rich liquid that quickly oxidizes and turns a deep shade of red. According to Discover Magazine
The source of that water is an intensely salty lake trapped beneath 1,300 feet of ice, and a new study has now found that microbes have carved out a niche for themselves in that inhospitable environment, living on sulfur and iron compounds. The bacteria colony has been isolated there for about 1.5 million years, researchers say, ever since the glacier rolled over the lake and created a cold, dark, oxygen-poor ecosystem.
Even weirder: scientists think that the bacteria responsible for Blood Falls might be an Earth-bound approximation of the kind of alien life that might exist elsewhere in the solar system, like beneath the polar ice caps of Mars and Europa.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Procrastinating? Here are 4 ways to fix it.

I found an interesting page today on how to stop (or lessen) procrastination, a malady that I suffer from time to time. Most "get stuff done" blog posts I read are either way mamby-pamby or just too dry. This one is helpful without talking about my chakra or recommending that I set up a complicated filing system. Read the whole article here and here is a quote that describes four powerful solutions to procrastination:

1. Stop and think. When we allow the above thoughts to go on without really being conscious of them, we procrastinate. When we actually pause and think about those thoughts, we can rationally see that they’re wrong. Instant gratification in the form of goofing off or eating junk food can lead to problems later. Fears are overblown and shouldn’t stand in our way. Not having negative consequences now doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences later. Our future self isn’t as bad-ass as we like to think. So think about what you’re doing, and start to do the more rational thing. Use the strategies below as well, but thinking is the start.

2. Enjoy the process. When we dread something, we put it off — but instead, if we can learn to enjoy it, it won’t be as hard or dreadful. Put yourself in the moment, and enjoy every action. For example, if you want to go out to run, don’t think about the hard run ahead, but about putting on your shoes — enjoy the simplicity of that action. Then focus on getting out the door — that’s not hard. Then focus on warming up with a fast walk or light jog — that can be nice and enjoyable. Then feel your legs warm up as you start running a little faster, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. This process can be done with anything, from washing dishes to reading to writing. Enjoy yourself in the moment, without thinking of future things you dread, and the activity can be very pleasant and even fun. And if it is, you won’t put it off.

3. Set up accountability. If no one is looking over our shoulder, we tend to let ourselves slack off. So set up a procrastination-proof environment — find people to hold you accountable. I joined an online fitness challenge this month, for example, so that I’d report my workouts to the forum. I’ve done the same thing for running, quitting smoking, writing a novel. You can even just use your friends and family on Facebook or email.

4. Block your future self. Your future self is just as likely to put things off. So block that sucker. Use a program like Freedom to block your Internet access for a predetermined amount of time, so your future self has to actually focus instead of reading blogs. Turn off your cable TV, get rid of the junk food in your house, cut up your credit cards … do whatever it takes to make it really hard for your future self to procrastinate or give in to temptation, or at least force your future self to pause and think before he does anything dumb.

Pretty obvious- but sometimes its good to read what you already know, but need to hear again...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Compelling Content is the New Advertising

As more and more companies adopt and incorporate social media into their overall marketing structure, understanding of what makes social media marketing effective is spreading. Back in the day, most companies would consider the "social media box" checked if they found a young, college graduate to set up a Twitter account. Now, a more sophisticated, strategic approach is being rolled out in many places...

We at Strategic have always said that creating and aggregating compelling, value added content was one of the keys to successfully building and engaging with a targeted audience. You company has just as much right to a computer screen as the New York Times, but if your content stinks, guess who is going to get the traffic. Your content has to be the Three E's: engaging, education and entertaining. And it has to be distributed to the right folks in the appropriate way. Tweeting your latest press release is a waste of time.

More and more people are getting on board with this approach. Check out this latest post from Copyblogger, "3 Steps to Foolish Online Advertising" (I highly suggest reading the whole thing...)

Remember this first and foremost – educate first and foremost. Give people something they can use, and they’re primed for more value. And that’s exactly what the Motley Fool report does.
While delivering on its promise and providing value, it becomes clear that this information is just the tip of the iceberg, and clearer that deeper analysis is valuable and worth paying for. That’s the natural point to make an offer – when people have been educated enough to do business with you.

Do You Have to Pay for Advertising?

Absolutely not. We’ve been preaching for almost five years that compelling content is the new advertising, thanks to the fact that compelling content spreads for free via social media.
People actually want content.

Compelling content is the new advertising. Compelling content is the new marketing. Compelling content is the new...everything.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday Links: Edelman, Twitter, Mergers, Microsoft, Jackbe

It is Friday! Time to review some of the interesting, compelling, fascinating blog posts, news stories and whatnot of the week.

Study: Social awareness up with consumers, businesses should follow
"Americans seek deeper involvement in social issues and expect brands and companies to provide various means of engagement," said Carol Cone, Managing Director of Brand and Corporate Citizenship with Edelman. "We call this the rise of the 'citizen consumer'."
The study found:
• 30% of consumers believe government should 'do the most' to support causes, an 11% decrease Year over Year (YoY)
• 23% believe 'people like me' should do more for causes, an 8% increase YoY
• 87% believe that businesses should be more involved with social issues
• 74% believe a combination of brand and consumer 'doing good' for causes is the best option
• 47% believe brands are working with causes only for the publicity

Ad agency abandons website for Twitter presence
A few weeks ago, a Swedish ad agency moved its website to Facebook and, before that, another agency based their web presence entirely on Youtube. Now, another agency has decided to ditch its website and establish its online presence elsewhere - this time on Twitter.

Government is hot, hot, hot for M&A
Investors were not kind to publicly traded government services companies in Q3 2010. In fact, you could say these companies took a beating from their investors. The federal services space took the brunt of it, with pricing down 19%, while defense prime contractors declined 5%. Even worse, valuation multiples are at the lowest levels in the past decade.

While this sounds like a lot of ‘glass half empty’ perspective, it isn’t all bad news. Recently ACG National Capital member Jean Stack of Houlihan Lokey wrote an article in Washington Technology regarding mergers and acquisitions in the government services sector. She, like so many others, predicted the M&A pace will remain strong into 2011 even though the industry has experienced downward momentum in pricing. Why? Companies and investors are cautious about organic growth prospects and are looking at M&A opportunities in order to support growth.

Create Mashups in the Cloud with Microsoft Azure DataMarket and JackBe
Mashup tool provider JackBe is working with Microsoft to create dashboard apps using Azure DataMarket. In our coverage of the DataMarket, we noted that it's a marketplace, not an app environment. That's where JackBe comes in. JackBe can run in Azure to help end users create their own mashups using data sources from the marketplace. JackBe shares an example app in a company blog post. The example is a logistics app designed to plan routes to keep perishable food fresh and incorporates the following data from the following sources:
  • Bing maps: with Navteq dynamic routing information and Microsoft's Dynamics CRM on Demand customer data;
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM on Demand: customer order data, and real-time Weather Central information visualized in Microsoft Silverlight, this App also supports write-back capability to the Dynamics CRM;
  • Microsoft SharePoint: aggregating information on delivery trucks and their locations;
  • And from Azure Data Market services: dynamic fuel prices and geographically correlated fuel station locations.
There's a video on the blog post that explains how it works.
The advent of cloud computing and big data makes huge amounts of data available to organizations, but it's not always clear how to make practical use of it. Tools like JackBe can help turn all this data into something end users can work with minimal support from IT.

And finally, the GOP won the House of Representatives but didn't quite gain control of the Senate.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Is This The Right Way to Court A Customer? Sue them?

Google is suing the US government for not buying Google Apps. Hmmm. I just read this on check it out for yourself...
Google Sues The US Government For Only Considering Microsoft Solutions

Eric Goldman alerts us to the interesting bit of news that Google has sued the US government -- specifically the Department of the Interior, for not seriously considering Google Apps when it put out a Request for Quotation (RFQ) to handle its messaging needs. Specifically, the DOI stated upfront in the RFQ that the solution had to be part of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite. Google is making the argument that this is "unduly restrictive of competition," and it seems like they've got a decent argument there.

Most of the lawsuit details the history of meetings and conversations between Google and the DOI, where Google sought to convince the DOI that its solution was acceptable. The DOI justified limiting its offerings to Microsoft, by saying that Microsoft had two things that other solution providers did not: unified/consolidated email and "enhanced security." Google disputes this (not surprisingly) and notes various problems with Microsoft solutions -- including well reported downtime issues. Google protested the RFQ when it was released, but the GAO dismissed Google's protest saying that since Google does not have a GSA schedule contract (i.e., what you need to sell to the gov't), it was "not an interested party." Anyway, should make for an interesting lawsuit if it goes anywhere...
Wait? What? Google isn't on the GSA schedule? Kind of a oversight, don't you think?

(Full disclosure: Microsoft is a client at my employer, Strategic Communications Group.)

Things Politicians Say- 1917 Edition

This always happens to me when I'm looking up information about a company or technology or whatnot. I end up at Wikipedia and stumble upon something astounding or remarkable....Never fails.

So, here is something that made my jaw drop...from the bio on James W. Gerrard, Ambassador to Germany (1913-1917)...

In 1914, he was the Democratic - Tammany Hall candidate for U.S. Senator from New York. He defeated Anti-Tammany candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Democratic primary, but lost the election to James W. Wadsworth, Jr. On the declaration of war by the United States, he was recalled from his post of minister at Berlin...

Gerard once said in a speech: "The Foreign Minister of Germany once said to me your country does not dare do anything against Germany, because we have in your country five hundred thousand Germans reservists [emigrants] who will rise in arms against your government if you dare to make a move against Germany. Well, I told him that that might be so, but that we had five hundred thousand and one lamp posts in this country, and that that was where the reservists would be hanging the day after they tried to rise."[1]

Wow. Just reminds you how much America has changed in almost 100 years. Can you imagine any politician of any political party saying something like that? And this from the guy who beat FDR in a Democratic party primary...