Tag Archives: innovation

new business models

Facebook in 2011 – What’s New This Year?

2011 is nearing its halfway point, and we’ve already seen some dramatic changes in the social media world. The tablet war is heating up, social shopping has become big business, and just this week, Microsoft announced the purchase of Skype for a whopping $8.5 billion. 2011 has also been a big year for Facebook, with its still-growing user base and the increasing promience of “find us on Facebook” messaging in ads from everything from Nissan cars to Energizer batteries to Macy’s Deparment stores to Fancy Feast cat food.

Facebook has also made several key changes to its site in the first half of 2011. We detail these changes below, discuss what these changes mean for Facebook and it users, and look forward to changes that are reportedly in the works for the rest of 2011.

Instant Comments

In 2011, Facebook made it even easier for friends and fans to share their comments. In March, Facebook removed the “comment” button, previously the last step in the commenting process. Instead of a button,  users simply need to press ”enter,” and the post appears in the news feed.

This change is more than just about ease-of-use, however. This faster submit process is a signal of the primacy of data in the Facebook ecosystem.

Facebook’s astronomically high value (currently projected at $50 billion) is largely due to its ability to foster countless, continuous conversations among its over half a billion members. Every company wants to the know what the world thinks of its new product – Facebook is the closest we’ve come to developing a way to do just that.

By making comments that much easier to submit, Facebook is in effect generating more and more data to add to its arensal. The comment button provided users with a prompt to review their content before submitting it. By replacing it with a keystroke,  Facebook has in effect moved sharing into the composition process. A click requires a shift in focus from the keys to the cursor. ”Enter” is just another keystroke. Only this keystroke just happens to publish your thoughts to the world.

How can all of this derive from just one missing button? When you are dealing with a worldwide network the size of Facebook, one change can impact how the world shares information.

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Best Back To School Campaigns, Part III: Bookstore Alternatives

Part III of our Best of Back to School marketing campaigns of 2010 dives into the changing world of college textbooks.  In recent years, numerous companies have sprung up offering alternatives to the notoriously expensive college bookstore.  This year, I was particularly impressive by two such companies – Coursesmart and Chegg.

Through its sleek, easy-to-use website, Coursesmart offers an ever-growing selection of “e-textbooks” – electronic versions of the traditional print texts that can be read on desktops, laptops, iPads and even iPhones.  Coursesmart’s e-textbooks give the reader the ability to highlight sections, take notes in the margins, print selected pages and cut and paste selections.  Now there is no need to carry around tons of heavy books – you can keep them all on our laptop, read for easy access with just one click.

I was particularly impressed by Coursesmart’s synergy with Apple products.  Being able to access textbooks from an iPhone is the ultimate in transportable texts.  Furthermore, the iPad opens the door to more interactive and impactful textbooks.  (See image above for an example of a Coursesmart text viewed on a iPad.)  The Wall Street Journal discussed the iPad and Coursesmart’s innovative e-texts in a recent article, stating that the new device makes book publishers “eager to exploit its color, video, and touch-screen capabilities.”  I, for one, would love to test drive this exciting new technology.

Of course, this new technology comes with a big price tag.  Coursesmart’s e-textbooks, while less expensive than print versions, can still run in the $100 range.  And then there’s the iPad, priced at $499 – a very pricey item to pile on top of an already expensive back to school season.  Another textbook innovator, Chegg, combines new and old technology to offer a more affordable alternative.

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Best Back To School Campaigns, Part I: Staples Makes a Difference

Two weeks ago, a milestone was reached: I received my first school-related e-mail message.  It opened with a jolly greeting from my professor, and moved quickly to talk of future assignments and course requirements.  That’s when it hit me – I need to get ready for back to school!

As a grad student, I’ve done the Back to School ritual more times then I’d care to count.  So, to liven up the hunt this year, I’ve added an additional item to my usual list of notebooks, highlighters and (of course) new shoes – find my favorite Back to School marketing campaigns.  I sought out campaigns that are innovative, fun and helpful, both to the shopper and the community at large.  A lucky few made it to the top of the class, and I will detail those campaigns in a series of three posts.  Today, I will profile Staples’ philanthropy.

Students and parents browsing the aisles (or web site pages) of this office superstore for back to school necessities can do more than just buy – they can give back, too.  For the third year in a row, Staples has partnered with teen-centric non-profit DoSomething.org to collect school supplies for children in need.  Donation bins have been set up in Staples retail locations across the country, and school supplies of all kinds will be collected now through September 18th.

This year, Staples used Facebook and a celeb-filled online game to help students get involved.  Teen can vote to join their favorite celebrity’s “pack,” and in the process donate $1 to the cause.  Donations are also accepted via text message.

All in all, I loved Staples’ idea and its execution.  These simple donations are a great way to teach everyone from preschoolers to high schoolers the importance of generosity and kindness towards those who are less fortunate.  Furthermore, through their Do Something 101 microsite, they provide helpful tips that help students run their own school supply drives – the lesson being that teens can really “do something” big to help their communities.

Judging by the 28,000 Facebook fans and thousands of votes on the contest page, this event is a proving to be a success.  Even Staples’ archrival Dunder Mifflin is getting in on the action!  With that endorsement secured, I now know where I’ll be purchasing my paper…

I hope you have enjoyed this first installment of my survey of the best of Back to School.  Be sure to visit our blog soon to see who else made the list!

And Then There Were None

andthentherewasnoneWe were heading into Labor Day Weekend. It was the time to kick back, enjoy the last days of summer. Whatever would have possessed me?  It’s not like I’ve been a software-upgrade trailblazer before, but last week something indescribeable took hold. “Upgrade to Snow Leopard,” it called out to me.

And so, a few days after Apple launched Snow Leopard. the upgrade which promised being the “most advanced operating system, finely tuned from installation to shutdown” I loaded the cd into my computer and pressed install. Snow Leopard apparently had other plans.  “Wreak havoc” on her computer it commanded.

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SOS to the World: Message in a Bottle, Open with Care

message in a bottleA typewritten note from July 21, 1926 was found encased in brick and plaster at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on June 4th, by Rick Brendemuehl, a laborer working on construction of the new American Wing. The note was written by Thomas F. Crowley who built the wall which Brendemuehl was taking down.  [As reported in the Boston Globe , 6/24/09]

The note contained information about the museum construction in 1926, the 95 degree day when he and his crew were making between 74 cents and $1.50 an hour; and other observations of the times.  Crowley’s note is a historian’s dream come true. A snapshot of day’s long gone, with questions remaining about the man, and what possessed him to slip an envelope into a wall, with handwritten instructions, “Open with Care.”

I’ve always been fascinated by messages, the kinds which wash up on a shore in a bottle, with the account of history, a personal voyage. And if I were to write a similar message today, what would I say?

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That one simple question: Do you know the answer?

I’m pretty sure we all understand the importance of talking to our customers.  But, how often do you talk to your customers?  Maybe once a year?   Perhaps once a month?   And, how do you talk to them?   Is it a phonecall, some type of survey or possibly an in-person meeting?   Most importantly, what do you talk to your customers about?

Most of us have either been involved in producing or responding to lengthy customer satisfaction surveys that seek to “better understand the customer” and “increase customer loyalty.”   Unfortunately, these same surveys are notoriously ineffective when it comes to boosting customer loyalty - with poor response rates, alienated customers, and lackluster data.

Imagine if you could ask your customers just one simple question that could fuel unprecedented customer loyalty and determine your business’ future.   This concept, termed Net Promoter Score (or NPS) focuses on asking this one question – Would you recommend us to a friend? – in a regular, systematic and timely manner. 

In his new Harvard Business School Press book, The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth , Fred Reichheld, introduces NPS as the radical new tool that is being rapidly deployed by leading firms to transform ordinary customers into promoters – the drivers of sustainable growth.

NPS is based on the premise that your customers can be divided into three unique segments based on their response to the “ultimate question” given a 0-10 point scale (with 0 being very unlikley and 10 being extremely likely).

  • Promoters – loyal enthusiasts who keep buying and urge their friends to do the same
  • Passives – satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are easily wooed by the competition
  • Detractors – unhappy customers trapped in a bad relationship

The NPS is the percentage of customers whose answers identify them as promoters minus the percentage whose response indicates they are detractors.

NPS = % promoters – % of detractors

According to Netpromoter.com, efficient growth companies such as Amazon.com, eBay, Costco, Vanguard, and Dell operate at NPS efficiency ratings of 50 to 80%; while the average firm sputters along at an NPS efficiency of only 5 to 10%.  

What is your NPS baseline?   If you have your own NPS stories, we’d love to learn more.

2008 Webby Awards: Vote by May 1st for Your Favorite Websites

If you’re anywebby awardsthing like me, you probably visit hundreds more websites in a given month, then you get out to a movie theater to see first-run movies. There’s a good chance you look forward to hearing about whose been nominated for an Oscar, and listen intently when the winners names are read from the proverbial envelope on the night of the gala ceremonies.

You may be interested in knowing that the 12th Annual Webby Awards Nominees were announced on April 8, 2008. The Webby Awards, referred to as the “Oscars of the Internet” by the New York Times, is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. The Webbys are presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 550-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities.

Five nominees have been selected for each category (100+). Between now and May 1st, you can vote for your favorite nominee. Congratulations to the five nominees in all categories!

Winners will be announced on May 6th, 2008 and honored in New York City on June 9th.

Of particular interest to blog readers and writers may be the three categories dedicated to blogs–business, cultural/personal, and political. There are so many impressive sites from the nominees in all categories.

Unlike the Oscar Awards, everyone of us has the opportunity to vote for our favorites. Make your voice heard! We’ll be posting the Webby Award winners on May 6th.

What are some of your favorite sites and why?

The Digital Native Defined

We know that generation Y has been exposed to digital media from birth — video games, cell phones, digital cameras, instant messaging and web communities, to name a few. But what does this actually mean to marketers?

This very topic was explained by Craig Bettles, a futurist and researcher from Institute for Alternative Futures, in his presentation Capturing the Imagination of the Digital Native, which he presented in early December for a National Park Service educational conference. He explains that the 15-20 year olds are wired differently. Their brains naturally process multiple pieces of information simultaneously. So, the communications we present to this group must be more complex, more interactive, and dynamic. If your audience is in this range, or will be, this is important information to understand.

Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants

This slide, from Bettles presentation, shows some of the fundamental differences between digital native and digital immigrants. Most likely, the readers of this blog are immigrants.

We recently reviewed some educational websites for high school-aged children that attempt to take educational experiences into this realm. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has produced and an electronic field trip that uses a PDA analogy as a mechanism for capturing and storing evidence and findings in an educational lesson. While we felt that the implementation is a bit clunky, the intention is intended to communicate in a style that is accessible to this age group.

Currently, we are working on several projects that require an understanding of how the Generation Y age group thinks and learns. To do this, we have become members of mySpace, Facebook, and many other online communities that cater to this group. While we can’t think the same way, we can certainly try. And, of course, we ask our friend’s kids for insight and advice.

We would love to hear from other folks who work with the age group and to see successful examples of social media for Gen Y in action.

Business models for a brave new *social* world

Blank logoThis fall, I have been auditing an MBA class, Managing Growing Businesses, at Babson College. For several years, the program director Ed Marram has asked me to sit on a panel of entrepreneurs for the class. This time, at his invitation, I decided to sit in for the full semester.

Last week, the featured speaker was venture capitalist Les Charm. Les talked about one of the first dot com companies that his firm funded in 1994. He talked about putting trust in the company founder, since no one at his firm knew what it really meant to have a web-based business. There really weren’t any. They planned on applying the subscription model to sell content. That was their plan, anyway, until AOL (the Google of the 90s) decided to give their content away for free. Their business model was seat of the pants stuff. There were no tried and true cases to learn from. So they tried everything. Eventually the business, FamilyEducation.com, was bought by Pearson Education.
In the class of 60 students, I am guessing that 80% are under 30 years old and couldn’t comprehend a world without sophisticated web business models. These students found it hard to believe that 28 K dial up modems were the standard, if consumers had access to the internet at all.

Jim AyerIn 1994, we built our first website for J. C. Ayer & Company. The site is now in it’s 5th revision. When we built the first one, Jim Ayer had to come to our office to see it since he didn’t have internet access.

The social web is a perspective shift for some, but not the students in this class. They don’t miss a beat when talk turns to publishing content. Most of them have their own blogs. If we are to get the attention of these savvy consumers, we need to understand their perspective. After all, these are the young business owners and consumers that will buy our wares, now and for the next 50 years.

For innovators, too much information is just enough.

Broken In BooksOver the weekend, I was in a brick and mortar book store called Broken In Books. The proprietor told me that he left his job as an engineer at MIT to start an online store that sells used books cheaper than any other seller on the web. The store front, he explained, was really just one of his warehouses that inventories books, many of which were purchased from private collections. They have wonderful old and not-so-old books of every kind, cramped in to this small space between a sub shop and a bakery. His business is bustling and he wanted me to know it wasn’t an MBA that got him where he was, but just taking his idea and running with it.

Information Innovation

When I got to the register, he discounted my books further than the already good prices labeled on the spine, based on the current going rate online, plus an additional discount for buying quantity. To determine their pricing, they rely on a quick search on Amazon.com to see what the rock bottom price is at the moment of purchase. Then they provide an additional 20% discount below those prices. When the book I picked up marked $25 ended up costing me $6, I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Picasso's GuitareWhat made Picasso and Monet so famous? They all pretty much used the same tools: canvas, paint, brushes. Some even painted side-by-side, painting the same scenes in the south of France, but the result was different, and spectacular. These artists had unique ways of seeing. They were innovative at the time for seeing and presenting information in a way that no one else had before.

What ever you need, when ever you need it

Our access to information is growing, thanks Google and to companies like them. For instance, you can search Google Patents for original patent documents for anything ever patented. As fast as it took me to think about the light bulb and the typewriter, I downloaded PDF’s all of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Edison’s inventions, with diagrams written in their hand. You can find a patent by inventor, key word or date. Who would have imagined that we could do this all from our desk chair or our couch for that matter?

Making Sense of Information Clutter

I am not alone in being overwhelmed by it all. As the deluge continues, I think the job of a professional communicator is to find valuable information and share them succinctly like we do here three times a week in this blog. While my plate is full, these posts help me to sort through all of the information and share the cream that rises to the top for me each week.

What rose to the top for you this week? We’d love to hear.