Is a brand a person?

Interesting take from Tom Foremski that illustrates the issues marketers are grappling with in social media.

Corporate Social Media Marketing: I Don’t Want A Social Relationship With My Hard Drive 

It highlights some of the difficulty with making money in social media. We will explore some more related issues in the next few posts.

Twitter, twitter, twitter…

After my little break I have just started catching up on things. One thing that seems to happened in my absence is that Twitter seems to have taken over the social media landscape. Everyday there is a new update on twitter – a new feature, a new stat about the number of users or a new celebrity story.

I do think that Twitter is a great app (I have been using it for over a year now)  – beautifully designed and thought out – but things are getting a wee bit hysterical with all the hype. The reason for all this hype seems to be that twitter is really targeted to media personalities – to people who make money from influencing other people and are comfortable in the spotlight – and these people are the ones doing all the hyping. Imagine news written by students…It will be all facebook all the time.

Now is twitter really useful or popular with non-media types? If you are not looking to influence other people, does it makes sense to tweet? Can twitter provide value to students or plumbers or nurses? If you just want to talk with your friends or connect with a group, I just don’t see the value proposition being very strong. There are better tools like facebook, myspace etc. that provide much better tools and access control for your conversation.

Another angle that is getting hyped up is the real-time search.  A number of people seem to be suggesting that Twitter = Real-time Search. To me twitter is an important source of information for real-time search but its not real-time search. For my real-time search I would like to get a larger data set that includes information from facebook feed, LinkedIn, myspace, blogs, bulletin boards recently updated sites etc. Now given the current stage of search (Google) this kind of near real-time access to latest information is not available. Perhaps that is why Twitter with its real-time database that does not require any extensive crawling and indexing works as a proxy real-time search. Longer term, though, saying twitter is real-time search seems similar to saying yahoo directory (from 10-12 years back) was the internet. Remember how that worked out for Yahoo!.

Update: Check out this interesting post from MediaPost that echos some of the same sentiments.

Update: Check out this interesting post from Brian Solis’s blog (Brian has been an early adopter of twitter and is a passionate user)

Observations from India

We just got back from an extended break in India. Some observations:

1. Election buzz is everywhere in India.

2. North India seems to be a whole lot more engaged in the elections compared to the south.

3. Roads, railways and airlines infrastucture is much improved in India…Now if they can solve the last mile problem for travel.

4. In the villages, a lot more people are excercising these days. Over a number of trips, I saw kids from villages and cities alike, getting up early in the morning and running on the roads, parks and streets. Gone are the days when I used to be the only person running. People and dogs no longer look at you with interest, if you are running. Very welcome change.

5. Yoga has taken off in India. All my relatives are all over it. Based on some convincing testimonials I decided to attend a yoga camp as well. 

Yoga is really focused on exercising the internal organs of the body and it really works. Interesting that all the voice training exercise for singers in the west are practically copied from Yoga (here, here etc.).

6. Lucknow is the place to go for authentic kababs. The kabab’s are called tunde kabab’s are somewhat like aloo tikkies and are served with special parathas  and roomali rotis. All I can say is yum!!! (check out the video of the scene of crime). 

7. Olive oil is still hard to find in India. In a superstore in Pilani, where the owner insisted that they had olive oil, I finally located it in the hair oil section. Apparently the shop owner believes that the only possible use of olive oil is for hair care. 

8. IPL cricket is doing really well this year despite being in South Africa. Its and interesting mixture of sports and entertainment with bollywood stars as owners of teams (great investment buying a team btw). There is even a gossip blogger for the IPL now. 

preity-zinta-ipl-pics-9

9. DVR’s and HD TV are finally available in India and they work good. 

10. Credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere in cities these days…Not so much in towns and villages. (Not one store accepting credit card in Pilani e.g.)

How much is your privacy worth?

Fascinating post on MSNBC about the price users put on Privacy…The post talks about experiments where users were asked how much they value their private data. Customers were asked the question in two ways:

  • How much are customer willing to pay to protect their privacy?
  • How much do customers want to be paid to share their private information?

As expected customers wanted a whole lot more money to share their private information while very few were willing to pay to anything to protect that information. I think people have this assumption about privacy that its something they just have…and I think its an artifact of how things used to be before everything changed because of technology. We now need to reexamine our assumptions about how much we really value privacy and come up with a more rational value (rather then have endowment effect and other psychological factors skew our judgement) … This is too important for everybody.

Online Ads Market

I have been meaning to do a summary of online Ad spending and the trends for a while…So it was good to see this piece in WSJ by Emily Steel that had a lot of numbers and trends:

So the current numbers are “Internet advertising has grown into a $16.9 billion industry — 5.9% of the $285 billion total U.S. advertising market in 2006, up from 4.7% in 2005, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.”

The article has a good cast of characters that make up the online ads space. Below is my summary of all the species:

Paid Search

  1. Search Sites: Up until now, paid search has benefited just a handful of players, particularly Google and Yahoo because those ads have mostly attracted smaller businesses that don’t use ad agencies.
  2. SEO Agencies: With bigger companies becoming more involved in paid search, agencies and search-marketing firms are playing a greater role. Also firms have sprung up to help marketers design their Web sites to make it easier for search engines to understand what information appears there. The goal of this “search-engine optimization” is for a company’s Web site to show up at the top of a search engine’s free results listings when a person is looking for information related to that particular company or industry.

Branding Ads (banner ads, animated adds,  etc.)

  1. Digital Ad agencies: ads are usually designed by digital ad agencies and then transported to various Web sites through a circuitous route often involving a number of technology-focused companies. It is this area that has seen most of the acquisition activity in recent weeks, as bigger ad players try to streamline the online advertising process. For example, Avenue A/Razorfish bought ad space on a total of 863 individual sites last year for its clients, which include Kraft Foods Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Nike Inc. To line up all that space, Avenue A/Razorfish used firms that deal with hundreds or thousands of Web sites.
  2. Ad Networks: Ad networks, buy space from sites and resell it to advertisers at a premium. Among the major ad networks are Advertising.com, acquired in 2004 by Time Warner Inc.’s AOL, and 24/7 Real Media.
  3. Ad-serving firms: Ad-serving firms are technology companies that get the ads from the advertiser to the Web sites that the ad network firms have lined up. The top two ad-serving companies are DoubleClick and Atlas, another unit of aQuantive. Ad-serving companies save the digital information that creates an online ad on a computer server and then deliver that data to the sites where marketers bought advertising space. This lets ad agencies change the contents of an online ad or where it runs on a site by switching that digital information on the computer server instead of communicating with each of the hundreds of sites where an ad might appear.

Some ad-serving companies also have ad-network arms. DoubleClick, for example, provides both these services for advertisers and Web sites.

Based on the action in the space you can see where the online ad market is going towards…while paid search is the cash cow, Branding seems to be future opportunity…Looking at the numbers there is huge room for growth.

(Numbers etc. borrowed heavily from the WSJ piece).