Who Are These Women on Twitter?

For those of you who don’t know what Twitter is, there will be a glossary at the end.

I use Twitter very infrequently.  I probably post on average once a week and follow only 14 people.  Until recently, I had only 18 followers, who had trickled in over the last 6 months or so, and all of whom I knew personally, or was a fan of.

Then, in one brief span of a few hours, these 5 ladies all became followers of me.  I have no idea who any of them are, or where they would get my name.  I find it curious that they are all female, and all (as far a you can tell from the images) fairly attractive.

So is this some kind of porn-spam thing that we’re going to have to start contending with in yet another Web 2.0 forum?

(BTW, it never occurred to me to go and look at their profiles until right now, and they’ve all been “suspended” and are being “investigated due to suspicious activity.”)


Twitter is an online service that some people call a micro-blog.  Once you join, you can write small (140 characters or less) pieces as often as you like.  A lot of people use it with their phones, so it can be an on-the-go stream of conscienceness experience for frequent users.

Followers are people who have signed up to see someone else’s Twitter posts.  So when they log into Twitter, they see all the most recent posts by only the people they follow.  You don’t need anyone’s permission to follow someone, but they are under no obligation to follow you in return.

The Twitter site explains it better, or there’s this cute video:



Passing Notes

My daughter and I were playing in a neighbourhood playground Monday night.  It is less than a year old, and was installed through the co-operation of the Salvation Army (who own the land) and the Moncton Wesleyan Church next door (who have money).  I spied a piece of litter on the ground, so I picked it up, intending to put it in the garbage on our way out.  This is what it had printed on one side:

It’s clearly a collection envelope.  We were given similar ones at my church growing up, although the ones we had were issued to individuals and had numbers printed on them, so the people processing the collection each week would know who had given what (although you’d think God would know, regardless).  I think it works differently at the Wesleyan, though: I believe that these envelopes are simply stuck into little boxes on the back of every pew, so congregants just grab one to stuff their donations into.  So, if you’re following my mental picture, they’re readily available scrap paper for someone sitting in a service.  Now, look what was written on the back:

“Do u have facebook.”  What a classic snapshot of our decade.  No longer do kids pass notes saying that the teacher is smelly.  Or that the preacher in nuts.  Those opinions are timeless and probably go without saying.  Nowadays, the note passing is an invitation to go to a Web page and learn all about the note-passer.  Don’t bother trying to fit your opinion onto a 2″ × 4″ piece of paper; simply direct the other person to your own personal online profile, where they can learn all about you!

Since this blog is ostensibly about marketing most of the time, I hope the obvious implication is not lost.  Just like kids aren’t pushing their messaging anymore (instead they’re inviting their contemporaries to visit of their own free will), broadcast advertising is losing its value, and being replaced by consumers seeking out  what they desire.

Firestorm of Controversy Ignited!

Well, that might be a little hyperbolic, but minor debate has erupted between the proprietor of the Keurig coffee machine refill vendor and me. Igor Del Norte (AKA CoffeePHD) left a long comment on the post where I described his very Webby marketing technique. His method is to search the blogosphere for mentions of Keurig, then leave comments on those posts promoting his free giveaway contest. I critiqued his execution, basically saying that he could use a proofreader and a more “normal” way to enter the contest.

His response is to acknowledge the need for better English, but defend his contest entry methodology. Here (opens in new window) is the page that his original promotional message points to where there are many exhortations to enter the contest, including a big “CLICK HERE.” So far, so good. But when you click on any of those very clear instructions, you go to this page, where there is a total lack of direction on how to enter until more than half way down the page, WAY below the fold (i.e. you have to scroll to see it). And even then, here is what it says:

How you can win:

Very Simple. One entry per person. Any comment or mini-review is acceptable, i.e: “I would love to try it, especially for free”, “Don’t know if I like it or not”, “My favorite K-Cup” and etc.

Seems a little cryptic, eh? It turns out, if you scroll even further down, there is an area to leave comments, à la typical blog post pages. OK, now I’ve figured it out, but I presume most people would not be so tenacious.

To answer your question, Igor, here’s how the process could be simplified. Right at the top of the page that you link to from the comment you leave on people’s blog, have a box labeled, “Please enter your email address to be included in the K-Cup giveaway contest,” and a button beside it that says, “Enter Contest”. Here is a screenshot I grabbed of a typical contest entry form:

If, for some reason, you absolutely want/need to continue the blog commenting entry system, at least put clear instructions right at the top of that page. Remember, people are used to entering online contests using interfaces like the one shown above. Asking them to use some totally foreign method requires clear, prominent and repeated instruction. But I would advise that you use a more familiar process and eliminate the need to teach people your method.

I’m Not Sure How I Feel About This

Last week, I wrote about Tim Hortons coffee, and my opinion that better java can be had from a certain brand of single-cup brewing machine.  Today, I found a comment attached to that post.  To save you the clickage, here is a screenshot of the missive:

I should explain that K-Cups are the single-serving coffee packs that are put into the brewing machine to make a cup of coffee.  They cost about 75 cents each.

This is pretty smart marketing, and pretty dumb, too.  What has obviously happened here is that the company that the “Weekly K-Cups Giveaways” link sends us to (AROMACUP) has someone (or some automated process) combing the Web looking for the word “Keurig.”  Whenever they find it, they take the opportunity to plug their little K-Cup supply company.  The hook is a good one, too – register for a chance to win free K-Cups.  Then they’ll have your email address and possibly your leave to send relevant marketing material that you will welcome.  It’s a classic permission marketing opt-in.  So kudoes to them for that.

HOWEVER, I have a couple of problems with this particular execution.  Number one, and I’ve ranted about this before:  could you take the time to do a frickin’ grammar check?!?!  Presumably, there is some person sitting in Belarus scouring the internet and posting these comments, so I understand if they’re not fluent English-speakers.  (For that matter, neither are the folks who do their Web content – even though the company is ostensibly based in New Mexico, the English on the site is awful.  Perhaps the fact that the company founder is named “Igor Dernov” gives a hint.)  But the comment text that is presumably being cut-and-pasted on blogs all over the Web could at least be proofed by an anglophone.

Secondly, when you click on the link, it’s difficult to figure out how to enter the contest.  Could be a language issue, as mentioned above, but I think it’s shadier than that.  It turns out that you are supposed to leave a comment in their blog.  Weird, and somehow a little creepy.  My sense of admiration for a supplier that is actively seeking out perfectly targeted potential customers (like me), turns to contempt and distrust when I go to their site.  So the concept is great, but the implementation is lacking.

It will be interesting to see if this  post (which again contains the word “Keurig”) attracts another comment from Coffee PHD

The Suits Don’t Get Viral Marketing

If you have missed the Where the Hell is Matt Dancing  series, you’re in for a treat.  Watch this one, and then go to www.wherethehellismatt.com and watch the previous two.  They have all received extensive play at YouTube, with this latest one getting 2.25 MILLION views in the first few days (it was posted Friday).

Matt made his first video just for kicks.  It became so popular that he garnered sponsorship from the folks at Stride gum.  (You can go see their flash-tastic site here if you would like your aggravation maximized today.)  You know Stride gum – they’re the ones with the hilarious  TV commercials where their gum’s flavour lasts so long that people never have to buy any more so Stride has to shut down their factory.  Those commercials, like most interruption marketing, are annoying.  Matt’s video, like most popular viral content, is delightful.

Why would Stride spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making their inane TV spots, and millions of dollars buying airtime for them?  They sent Matt around the world for $50k and got WAY more exposure, and it was straight into their target demographic.  It’s frustrating to see a marketer do something so right at the same time as continuing the stale old ways.  I guess corporate marketing is still too timid to put all their eggs in a non-traditional basket.

Should a Marketer Market Himself?

Stephen Brooks ResumeI joined Facebook several months ago just to see something someone had sent me – I had to be a member to view their Facebook profile.  I haven’t paid much attention to it since.  Then, on Friday, it occurred to me that many of the people who use and appreciate Facebook are the same ones who were reacting to news that I was blogging now with, “Cool – send me the URL.”  So in a blatant display of self-promotion, I visited the Facebook pages of all 8  (ooooh) of my Facebook “friends” and trolled their  friends lists for people I know, and sent friend requests to those who I thought wouldn’t mind.

My theory was that the more people who visited my Facebook page, the more chance that they would see my blog URL and the more likely they might be to visit.  If they like what I write about, they may become regular visitors and maybe even recommend me to other people whom I don’t know (yet).  The whole exercise felt slightly self-aggrandizing and spammy at the time, but two things now convince me it was a good idea:

1.  It worked.  My blog traffic hit a new record on Friday, and the weekend numbers were significantly better than normal.  And I now have fifty Facebook friends!  (Still far fewer than the hundreds my friend Kim has…)

2.  And, as someone who writes about, and pretends to know something about, Web 2.0 marketing, isn’t it my duty to self-promote?  I got to thinking about the last time I was involved in hiring someone for a marketing-related role.  The résumés of most of the applicants were dull dull dull.  Now mine (pictured) is no Rembrandt, but it shows that I took a little time on the most important document I will probably ever write.  And guess what?  I got two people to proof-read  it, too.

I’m not going to get off on the tangent of how many people submitted CV’s with spelling and grammar errors – that’s a whole other galaxy of dumb.  But if you want to impress me with with your potential as a marketing professional, do NOT submit a document that is virtually indistinguishable from everyone else’s.  Use some colour pixels, for heaven’s sake – they don’t cost any more.

Similarly, consider whether you can be impressing me with your online presence.  I believe the day is fast approaching when the idea of a marketing person who isn’t blogging (or Facebooking or MySpacing or Second Lifeing or existing online in some other way) will be as incongruous as a physician who smokes.

The Long Tail

In yesterday’s post, and in previous musings about the need to have extremely focused marketing, I have touched on the idea that it’s not necessary to have widespread appeal to be successful. I am certainly not the first to come up with the idea that in a Web 2.0 world, where anyone can find anything, specialization will beat generalization most of the time. Chris Anderson even wrote a book about it: The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.

The idea is that of all the plethora of products out there, only the most popular used to thrive – those in the head. Consider the example of books. There are millions of books written each year. In the past, only a small percentage of those ever got printed – the rest were rejected by publishers. And only a fraction of those that were printed became “successes” by the usual definition of the word. So Charles Dickens and Alex Haley and Carl Sagan became famous; while the learned author of How to Milk a Yak – The Beginner’s Guide never saw her great work published.

But the thing is, there are people who actually care about yak milking and would love to read anything they can get their hands on about the topic. Not many, but still. And now that the Web makes it easy for those llama-lactic people to connect with each other, that book can and will find an audience.

To give some real-world validity to the concept, only half of Amazon.com’s revenue comes from titles that would formerly have been considered “successful,” defined in this case by those you’d find in a bricks and mortar Chapters store. The rest of their income comes from books that generate only a handful of sales (sometimes only one!) each year. But because they don’t have to pay for inventory or rent, that’s OK.

Web 2.Uh Oh

Market MayhemThere’s a breaking story in Moncton today about a street preacher who was mildly assaulted by a municipal employee at the city’s farmers’ market on the weekend.  Here is the newspaper account, but more importantly, here is a video of the event that was posted on YouTube.  If it weren’t for the online video, there wouldn’t even be  a story. 

[UPDATE: The video has been taken down by the poster, perhaps because it is potential evidence in a potential lawsuit he may or may not be pursuing against the city.  Since you can no longer view the “assault,” I’ll describe it as a belly bump just enough to knock the recipient back about half a meter.]

It used to be that for the public to see a controversial video, it had to be Rodney King-esque in its atrocity.  Only then would a network run it.  Now, everyone is a network, and can broadcast any video they want with a couple of mouse clicks. Everyone is also a videographer, now that most people carry video cameras (disguised as phones) with them wherever they go.  Because of those converging phenomena, this dude in red will probably lose his job over a belly-bump.

What does this tell us as marketers?  That you can’t screw up and sweep it under the rug anymore.  We are entering an age when any action might be recorded and retold to the world.  So we have to act as if every action IS being recorded, and may be retold to the world.

I think this is a good development, because it should nudge us further along the deception <–> integrity continuum, and make marketing less about fooling people and more about helping them.

Web Marketing – It’s Cost-Effectivalicious!

I attended an online presentation today by MarketingSherpa where one of the slides contained this chart.  It shows where people who are making technology buying decisions go to get information.  It only deals with “interactive” sources, so static Web sites, brochures, advertisements and the like aren’t counted.

Stephen Brooks Flickr Chart

I find it interesting that about 3 times as many people get their vendor information from Web 2.0 sources as do by attending trade shows.  Yet most technology marketers (I used to be one of them) spend WAAAAAAY more money on trade shows than on interactive Web activity.

At one of my old companies, we spent close to half a million dollars on our presence at COMDEX one year (I think it was fall 2000).  And that was only one of 10 or so shows we exhibited at that year.  For what we spent on that one show, we could have hired 5 excellent people to do nothing all day but build our online presence by hanging out in chat forums, answering questions in industry newsgroups, seeing the coming of blogs and participating in that phenomenon early on, creating Facebook groups for our user community, and a tonne of other stuff.  Taking that strategy, and sticking with it, would have made that company the dominant online thought-leaders in their field by now.

It’s not too late to get on the bandwagon, because even now the vast majortiy of marketers have yet to embrace the idea of 1 to 1, permission based marketing using the Web 2.0 tools that are now available.  Start your blog today!  ¡Viva la revoluçione!