Archive for March, 2011

How to launch products using social media

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

I need to preface this email with some disclaimers:

  1. I like Guy Kawasaki – I was enchanted by his approach to technology evangelism with Apple over 20 years ago and have been following him ever since.  (For balance, I should note that other tech evangelists are also available).
  2. He’s just released a new book which he is obviously out marketing. I’ve read it and think it’s great (there’s a copy on my desk if you want to read it – it’s easy going, you can read it in a couple of hours).

enchantment-ana-b-125x125-06So with that out of the way, I saw this yesterday and thought it was interesting, it’s essentially a list of all the different ways he used social to market his new book.

Ignoring the fact this is about a book launch and instead focusing in on the principles and I take away the following:

  1. Social is more than just “social”, Twitter and FB are just means of moving the message, they are not the message itself  – without great supporting collateral they’re worthless.
  2. Social costs money.  In addition to the usual book launch publicity costs, he advises a spend of over $45k (plus whatever he sent on PPC) on what he lists as “social” activities.
  3. Know your influencers and scale up to enchant them.  Guy’s lucky, he has a pool of 22,000 bloggers engaged in his AllTop network to choose from as influencers.  The key point is he _didn’t_ choose a subset based on an arbitrary measure of influence, he just selected all of them.  Big bucks, but big pay off.
  4. Engage the peripheral audience – in addition to the “push” techniques, he also created a series of engagement experiences that “pulled” the audience to him, (e.g. photo competition, quiz etc).
  5. Empower the audience to spread your word – Guy’s final move is to create frictionless ways (badges, schtikers, wallpapers etc) for people to share their  love for his product (“love” is a bit strong but you know what I mean). 

I know there’s a lot here and we can’t all be as well placed as Guy Kawasaki in terms of being able to activate people, but I think many organisations really need to think differently about what social truly means to them.  It isn’t free, it isn’t easy, but when you get it right, it can really pay off.

Back to the Arrogance of the Present

Friday, March 18th, 2011

One of my favourite books is Jonathan Margolis’A Brief History of Tomorrow”, (if you’re into thinking about the future like we are here, then you should really give it a read).  One of my favourite concepts from the book is something Jonathan refers to as “the Arrogance of the Present” – essentially identifying that it is hard to measure the future potential of new technology when all you have is a mind-set from the “present” from which to make the judgement.

In many ways it’s like the situation Henry Ford found himself in way back in 1903, asking for funding for his new project only to be told by the President of the Bank of Michigan that “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad”. Now with hindsight, it’s easy to sit here and make fun of that poor bank president and how stupid he must have been, but in reality, at the time that he made that statement, he was actually probably _right_.  His judgement on the future potential of Mr Ford’s ideas was coloured by his own understanding of the society at the time and his ability to understand how it may change.

Obviously we do not possess the ability to predict the future, but more importantly, we simply cannot comprehend the complex series of changes that society makes as it continues to evolve and therein lies our challenge.

We see examples of this kind of problem every day – many new technologies are misunderstood, dismissed and downright despised because we struggle to comprehend their role in a society that is significantly evolved from the one we experience today.

Camera phones are a great example of this – when they were introduced, I don’t know anyone that was inspired with excitement about the prospect of carrying around a poor quality, low resolution camera on their phone of all things.  Fast forward to today, when that functionality is poised to change the way society works whether it’s through citizens interacting with their local council on anti-social behaviour or augmented reality solutions that make a tangible difference to the way people are able to live their lives.

There are many more examples to illustrate the point but I’ll pick just two more – social networking and street level imagery – both of which are much maligned and misunderstood. That’s not to say they aren’t with their problems, but when we think about their potential it’s crucial that we do so not in the context of our understanding of today’s society, but instead by thinking about how they might work with the society of tomorrow. 

Of course, that’s not to say we should blindly accept any new technological principle, but instead of constraining our perception of value and relevance, we must use our experience from the past to help inform the right way of getting the most from the future potential innovation by implementing it in a way that is respectful and cognisant of all we have learned along the way.

Bringing Government as Platform to Life –Introducing Travel Advisor

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

One of the concepts we’ve been talking about for a long time now is “Government as Platform”, the concept of breaking government services up into a number of digital building blocks that can be assembled in different combinations to provide compelling new services to citizens.

Government as Platform has many advantages, done correctly, it is not just a cost effective way of delivering relevant and rich services to citizens, but more importantly it changes the overall dynamic of how citizens gain access to crucial government information and services, ensuring that government services are federated out to the places where citizens live, work and play (rather than forcing citizens to have to come to government every time they want access to the service).

AdvisorToday, I’m really pleased to be able to announce the availability of Travel Advisor – a new example of this approach, taking a core government service – The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advisory service, federating it out through an open data api and blending that data with a great social networking platform for gap year travellers – the brilliant GapYear.com. (Not to mention bringing with it core functionality from the internet like Bing’s currency exchange, weather and translation) All of this comes together to provide a beautiful, well informed, socially connected travel companion for gap year travellers.

Although a great application in its own right, it is also an excellent demonstration of what can be done to deliver beautiful, relevant services to citizens, by blending the diverse sources with relatively little effort and investment. Let me tell you a bit more about how it works.

The FCO is a switched on, digitally focused organisation, thanks in part to the wit and wisdom of their Head of Digital Engagement – Jimmy Leach. They already publish an RSS feed of the Travel Advisory service – a data stream of important content on all of the locations that the UK government has presence, with data ranging from what to do if your passport is lost/stolen through to up to date advice for travellers based on local conditions (extreme weather, civil unrest, significant local events etc). We contacted one of our partners – AWS, to help take that data and publish it in the cloud as an open data api that enables any developer on any platform to consume and make use of it. AWS then worked with GapYear.com to deliver a beautiful mobile application that would combine their socially connected services, with this authoritative information from the FCO to deliver a location aware, traveller’s resource.

The cost of developing the api and the app was actually pretty small, but the net benefit and overall experience for the citizen is immense, plus by taking this two phase approach – phase one = publish an open data api, phase two = do something beautiful with it, you create a solution that actually exponentially increases the potential value for both citizens and developers as you effectively create the opportunity for further innovation by developers to create new and interesting applications.

The Travel Advisor application is now available as a free download in the Windows Phone Marketplace.