Stop. Go.

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Stop. Go.

It snowed early in the morning yesterday and as the clouds cleared, I grabbed this shot. I’m digging on Hipstamatic again. I’m trying to force myself to take shots with the same lens/film combination for an extended period to see if I can learn the algorithms of the software in how it vignettes, texturizes and applies its groovy.

Daily affirmation: Have a great soundtrack.

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Headed to the Dad 2.0 Summit. Strange to be headed to Austin without being in Austin proper. I’m on a panel, Return on Engagement: The Great Debate Over Measuring True Reach, I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow panelists in person and talking about the importance (or not) of follower counts, Facebook Likes, Klout, etc. The panel is moderated by Adam Keats. My fellow panelists are Casey Petersen, Manny Puentes and Matt Thomson. Should be a great conversation. Honestly? These are heavy hitters. I’m hoping to contribute from an indie publisher perspective. Can independent publishers compete for marketing dollars in an environment where an increasing desire by marketers/advertisers to measure return on engagement through social networks relies on seemingly arbitrary measures? For example, getting Facebook Likes is easier for somebody with deep pockets and a willingness to advertise on Facebook specifically to increase “like” count. [1. cf this post from May, 2011, talking about some anecdotal numbers involving brands who advertise on Facebook. Abstract: Their assumption is that Facebook makes $9 million dollars a day from like advertising. The numbers are derived from a Facebook exec who said that 50 million likes are clicked for brands every day. The author of the linked post suggests through some quick math that Facebook has a $3,285,000,000 US market in brand reputation advertising revenue.] While popularity is always an initial draw to advertisers (popularity equals influence, right?), how does that translate in the online space? This AdAge article points to some research around how people are influenced to make purchases:

“But more-recent findings from Columbia researcher Duncan Watts refute the claim that a small subset of people drive larger purchasing patterns. Rather, it is the “pass-around power of everyday people” that really drives viral sharing. It is this latter definition that seems to be getting ignored more and more lately as companies strive to create scores to identify the uber-influencers.”

The thing is that celebrity spokespeople have been used for years in all kinds of marketing and advertising media. That is not going away any time soon. How do our pass-arounders find out about that great product or brand? Somewhere they were influenced. Oprah has sold a lot of books. So does an author appearance on The Daily Show [2. The Big Picture (not the photoblog) post from 2009 talks about the influence of the show on book sales from an insider perspective]. Some overlap in audiences, but the books being discussed can be markedly different. Glenn Beck used to be influential in book sales as well. Oprah, Jon Steweart and Glenn Beck are all what marketers would call influencers. Getting your book on any one of their shows in a positive light is going to have an effect on sales. So there is some competition in datasets around influencers and their influence. While it may be true that we rely on a network of trusted friends in our circle to learn about new products or get brand recommendations, we are expanding the very definition of what that circle looks like through our online activities. The above linked AdAge article ends with this:

“Creating true influence as a brand means investing time in building deep relationships with consumers, and creating an extension of your brand nationally or globally.”

Which can seem screamingly obvious to anyone in marketing. The problem is that the importance and quality of those deep relationships is grasped by very few people in the world. Apple immediately comes to mind. Look at their stores. They create an experience that is aspirational, inspirational and entices you into their world. Once you are in their world, they complete the execution of the relationship by delivering stunning products that are shown to enhance our lives. If we have to use a computer every day, shouldn’t we love that computer? Same with cellphones. Companies that understand the importance of brand experience and follow through with their products will win. On some level, the product is the marketing. The experience is the marketing. And in that way, Apple creates an almost subliminal marketing message that says we care about your experience and we want you to love our products. Apple is very much a case of doing and not saying. Touch an iPad for 30 seconds and you see the level of attention to detail in delivering on the promise of a great relationship. It seems so simple. It’s not so simple and it’s not so easy.

Which is why I love the idea of the panel discussion. If independent publishers/content generators bring their influence to the online marketing game, surely there can be positive results. The question remains for me, why are we still stuck in a direct marketing model of online marketing when brand experience is the more critical driver of business success? In other words, the only success metric of any marketing effort can’t be bogged down in miles of spreadsheet cells. It has to be the bottom line. Does your marketing as a whole generate revenue? Is that revenue going up or down? How are you using the internet to aid your marketing efforts?

If we look at brand experience and brand messaging, influencers can have a huge impact on a business’ bottom line. Will marketing dollars be spent on smaller, yet still very influential, niche sites that cater to desirable market segments? It remains to be seen. I’m of the belief that serious money can be made from online content, but we’re not even close to there yet for the indie publisher. Maybe in 5 years, a similar model to what the New York Times has done with their digital content? There are still ads in the digital subscription model, but there is the added revenue and marketing potential of a subscriber base. Will there be a technology wave to help generate revenue for smaller sites the way that blogging software surpassed very expensive content management systems? Are social media buttons the start of that?

Wow. That all sounds pretty preachy. Must be the high altitude WiFi. Stay tuned. I’m going to talk about what I think is right and wrong with digital marketing, but today won’t be the day I do that. If this was all wonky and nerdy, The Management apologizes, but would still like you to flush the toilet when you’re done in the restrooms. THANKS.

Also published on Medium.