Brizzly Makes a TwitFace

But do Facebook and Twitter belong together?
Another guest post by Carly Schwartz

Of all the social media aggregators out there these days, I was most excited to beta-test Brizzly, and not just because its icon is more adorable than the Snuggle bear. The program promises to simplify online social activity by allowing you to access Twitter and Facebook at the same time, on the same screen. As a longtime user of both platforms for very different purposes, my curiosity piqued. Is it possible to enjoy the benefits of both at once?

Brizzly offers a way to view your Facebook and Twitter accounts on the same webpage, dividing the two programs by tabs. Its clean interface makes for easy navigation of content. Users can even integrate up to five Twitter profiles into their Brizzly account and peruse the individual pages’ activity side-by-side.

Brizzly’s Twitter content looks almost exactly like Twitter’s webpage itself, with minor design tweaks (black stars instead of gold ones for favoring posts, lists moved to the lefthand side of the page instead of the right). Its Facebook content, however, is much more limited, displaying only news feeds, wall postings, and status updates—essentially Facebook’s most Twitter-esque features.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Brizzly is its ability to explain Twitter trends. Users simply click “why?” next to a topic, and Brizzly offers a concise explanation in a neat little pop-up box. This saved me the agony of scrolling through streams of 140-character gobbledygook to figure out why #sorrysorry appeared as the number one trend yesterday, as Brizzly quickly informed me it’s a reference to a hit single by Korea’s Super Junior, allegedly the world’s largest boy band. Fascinating stuff, I know.

Other useful Brizzly features include the ability to embed photos and videos into the actual Twitter stream (as opposed to accessing the content on a separate client like Twitpic) and the option of saving drafts of your tweets and Facebook status updates (not sure why anyone would want to, but it’s a nice touch). Its real-time updates feature also saves users from constantly refreshing their page, a flaw that plagues both Twitter’s and Facebook’s original websites.

While most of Brizzly’s positive attributes relate to its Twitter features, the majority of its problems have to do with Facebook. Its Facebook content prohibits users from updating their profiles, playing games, chatting, or engaging with any part of the program beyond the wall. When users click a link to access their Facebook photos, a new window opens up entirely, directing to their actual Facebook pages. Kind of defeats the purpose of accessing Facebook through a separate client.

Brizzly’s successful use of Twitter and limited integration of Facebook begs the question: Do Facebook and Twitter—or any differing social mediums, for that matter—belong together? As social media continues to evolve, will one network reign supreme, or do different programs serve different purposes?

I’ve been actively tweeting for more than a year, and on Facebook since [gasp!] 2004, and I use each platform for very different reasons. Though Facebook statuses are useful every now and then to brag about an impending vacation or vent about a tough day at the office, for me, the program is a vehicle for keeping in touch and communicating with friends. Whether chronicling photos, planning a party, playing a game of Scrabble, stalking a crush, or indulging in general vanity, Facebook is best suited as a means to socialize in the digital space.

Twitter, on the other hand, is an information aggregator extraordinaire. I use Twitter to read the news, stumble upon discounts, follow my favorite musicians and artists, share interesting tidbits, and monitor the general pulse of San Francisco. Of course, a few friends and I call each other out on inside jokes and upcoming plans, but I prefer to use Facebook for that.

Furthermore, as a member of the ad industry, I believe tools like Brizzly inhibit the potential to develop marketing programs across social platforms. Successful social campaigns take very different forms on Facebook (games, fan pages, gifts) than they do on Twitter (hashtags, retweets, customer relationship management). Integrating the two poses a significant challenge for marketers, who clearly want to move beyond display banner ads as the social space continues to grow.

Despite Brizzly’s earnest attempt to blend the two programs, I think they’re ultimately better off alone. Social networks will continue to grow and find their respective footings in the coming years. For now, there’s a place for Facebook and a place for Twitter, and although some of their features overlap, I’m not convinced they belong next to each other—even when joined by a mascot cute enough to turn my insides to oatmeal. 

Happy holidays from Traction!


A Creative Alien at the iMedia Agency Summit

This is a guest post written by blogger Renee Crawshaw, Associate Creative Director at Traction.

I've just returned from the iMedia Agency Summit in Scottsdale. On my first day, a group of four Summit veterans took us newbies aside to tell us what to expect in the coming days. Afterward, I asked the group of 40 or so freshmen if there were any other creatives present. Not a single hand raised. It was plain to see: I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Now, to be fair, the iMedia Agency Summit is the opportunity for agency media planners and buyers to meet with digital publishers and technology providers. But as the person who is ultimately responsible for communicating ideas through digital media, it's important that I understand their capabilities. That's why I jumped at the chance to go. And I encourage more creatives to get their names on the invite lists of future Summits. Here is a bit of what I took away.

Collaboration, education, and standardization.
At the Summit, these three ideas were meant to apply to the relationships between media agencies, publishers, and clients. From a creative person's point of view, I say that they apply to how we here at Traction approach a project. We employ cross-discipline collaboration, starting at the concepting phase. In addition to the copywriter and art director, our brainstorms include our UX designer and our technical leads. This organic ebb and flow of expertise from each discipline results in experiences that generate visceral responses and reflect natural human behaviors on the web.

Traditional, digital, social: it's all a big blur.
Deelish, isn't it? I'm a copywriter by discipline. Nine years ago I felt my advertising career was all but wrapped. The San Francisco ad scene was decimated by the dot com implosion. And this new-fangled thing called online marketing limited me to a character counts and static executions. Today, technology has caught up to what I do—and is pretty transparent to me. Not only can I work in my familiar territories like video (for you traditionalists, that's what used to be known as "broadcast"), I now have a host of new channels in which I get to tell a brand's story. At the Summit, we heard a lot about the importance of developing original content for interactive video. I'm looking forward to it.

It can be messy at times. All these options. All that content. None of us quite speaking in the same language. But to the consumer, it all mashes up to a yummy dish of relevance.


Traction pulls ahead

San Francisco Business Times just published this article on Traction. You can read the original here.

Ad firm Traction's software supports creative side

As far as Adam Kleinberg is concerned, there are ad agencies and there are software companies. Traction Corp. is one of the few that blurs the line between the two.

“We work across integrated branding and advertising, interactive experiences and social media to create experiences and align human behaviors with the brands,” said Kleinberg, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Traction. “We’re as much a software development company as we are an ad agency.”

This model of combining advertising principles with web applications has worked for Traction. Over the past three years, the company has grown 105.5 percent, to $3.7 million last year from $1.8 million in 2006.

Illustrating this is a campaign the company created for Adobe in 2008 that involved a Facebook application that allowed users to guess if an image was an original or modified using Adobe’s Photoshop software.

“They wanted to reach out to the college student audience, so we created a game called ‘Real or Fake’ that leveraged images created with Photoshop,” Kleinberg said. “It provided a really successful brand engagement for Adobe’s customers.”

Kleinberg said the company tries to align a brand’s business objectives with human behavior through something it calls “engineered marketing.” The traditional marketing that had audiences move from awareness to consideration to intent to purchase doesn’t work anymore because “consumers can consume media on their own terms,” Kleinberg said.

The company’s blend of traditional and interactive ad experience led to an identity crisis early on, said Kleinberg, who has a web design background. “Were we a web development agency or an ad agency?”

But Kleinberg and the company’s other founders, Theo Fanning and Paul Giese, who all worked together at Tribal DDB before founding Traction in 2001, decided they were both and decided to combine the two.

The lines were blurred further when Traction was hired by Bank of America to create an Internet application that allowed customers to engage with the BofA brand while investigating their personal finances through the bank’s web site.

“It was truly different from anything the bank had ever done before,” said Tim Brown, who was creative director for Bank of America’s e-commerce division. He has since moved to a similar position with Kaiser Permanente.

“Instead of just taking what we thought would be a good idea, they really went to town and did great research on how people view their finances,” Brown said.

Kleinberg said 2008 was the company’s best year, and despite a tough beginning to 2009 he expects the company to come out of the recession stronger.

“At the beginning of this year, we had two months where most of our clients froze and we were very touch and go,” Kleinberg said. “But things quickly picked back up and we’ve grown quite a bit this year.”

Kleinberg said that through the third quarter, the company was on a path for more than 40 percent growth compared to the same period last year, despite the lull. He said the recession has made the firm focus on companies that value their brands, choosing clients more selectively.

As a manager, Kleinberg has learned that the most difficult aspect of managing the firm has been hiring good people.

Traction has grown to about 30 employees, with 12 of them joining in the past three years. Kleinberg estimates that he will hire about 10 more in the next three years. He said he took one of the company’s biggest risks when he decided to keep a particularly cohesive team even after the project they were working on was canceled.

Among Traction’s competitors are San Francisco firms such as AKQA and Organic, Kleinberg said.

“The team knows that we really care about them and I would say to a man when the need comes to put in that extra effort and put in a long night, people don’t hesitate to make that happen,” said Kleinberg, who thinks the risk paid off. “That’s been something that has made us a stronger company.”


Twitter Lists to Followers Ratio: The new social media metric

Twitter has been aunching a slew of new functionality recently, most notably Twitter Lists. I say most notably because Twitter Lists addresses one of the most pressing problems with using Twitter.com as a primary Twitter client. It's very easy to follow so many people that you wind up really following no one. People's tweets just get lost in the stream.

Until now, I've solved that problem with 3rd party apps like Seesmic on my desktop and Tweetie on the iPhone that allow me to create groups of followers so I can filter down tweets to a manageable thread and actually keep tabs on the people I'm most interested in. Twitter Lists, however, allows me to do that right on Twitter.com and even better, share those lists with others. The lists I aggregate can become little tidbits of value I share with the masses.

That's really relevant to brands seeking a meaningful metric for how to measure the success of their social marketing programs. Just acquiring followers is really quite meaningless. It's relatively easy to do (follow a bunch of people and some subset will just follow you back), but says nothing about the relevance of those followers or if they are getting any value out of following you.

However, if someone adds you to a list, they are making a small, but conscious effort to say to the world, hey this dude's got some good tweets over here.

I propose that this will evolve into a truly meaningful metric for social marketing effectiveness. The more of your followers that put you on Lists, the more relevant and valuable your social media presence is. As of this moment, @adamkleinberg (that's me) has 1852 followers and I'm on 60 lists. That means I have a marginally respectable 3.2% List to Followers Ratio. This is a measure of my perceived relevant value on Twitter, and one I hope will improve over time.

There are holes in this theory of course. Take this Twitter thread for instance:

jack_benoff: @adamkleinberg but how many of your followers have even created lists?

adamkleinberg: Lists to Followers Ratio = new value metric for soc. media. Currently 3.2% of my followers think I'm valuable enuf 2 put on a list.

But even if this is brand new stuff and only active Twitterers use it, doesn't that add to the argument that it's a great metric to measure value of your Twitter presence? It's no secret that ninety-something percent of people on Twitter sign up, tweet once and disappear. Those aren't exactly valuable followers and they definitely aren't creating lists.

Stick that in your PowerPoint and guru it. As always, I love to hear your thoughts.


Marketing Megatrends redux

The "5 Marketing Megatrends You Cant Ignore" article I wrote for iMedia last week has gotten quite a bit of buzz. I did a search on twitter and nearly 400 people have tweeted about it since it was released on Monday (writing this on Wednesday). It's fascinating how Twitter allows you to watch something "go viral" in real-time.

It's also spawned a few interesting blog posts around the web. I thought I'd collect a few links to them here.

When Do Megatrends Matter? by Small Business Labs:
"What's interesting about these "new" megatrends is all have been talked about, at least in the trends community, for many years - even decades. This does not mean the list is bad or late. Trends take a long time to reach the point where they matter.

One of the key indicators that a megatrend is starting to have broad impact is discussion and activity across multiple disiplines. All of these trends have reached that point - and all of these trends matter or are starting to matter to small businesses."

Five “Megatrends” to Watch by Ed Lee at Blogging Me Blogging You:
"For discussion: is mass collaboration the answer for pervasive distrust in big corporations? It is interesting that big corporations are deliberately using social media to both seem smaller and encourage that collaboration.

We use the following formula when explaining this stuff to clients:

Engagement = Transparency + Co-Creation

5 Marketing Megatrends by Healthcare Strategist
"#4 is, I think, under-appreciated in health care. Doctors and hospitals like to think of themselves as the last of the white hat-wearing good guys, and maybe they are. But trust is a funny thing - built over decades and lost overnight. Screw it up and watch the laser beam of populist rage move from Wall Street to Medical Avenue."

sarica’s posterous
"I like the difference the author establishes between "regular" trends and "mega" trends, this is a quite interesting article... althought it takes a small effort to read it."

Five Megatrends--and how they are shaping crisis communication
"I'm once again stealing brilliance from others, but, hey, isn't that what blogging is all about?
Here's a very insightful article about the Five Megatrends impacting marketing. But these are also impacting crisis communication and the way we think, work, socialize and exist together in community. So here is my crisis communications take on these big ideas..."

Megatrends also drive new funding models
"I would say #1, #3 and #4 are exactly things we thought when we founded Grow VC. 1. Collaboration is needed for funding. 3. New funding models must be global. 4. Startups are important for growth and entrepreneurs don’t feel that large VC’s and banks are always the best source to get funding. I think #2 and #5 are also linked to the funding world.

We can always be sceptical with trends and especially with megatrends. But together with very practical experiences from the startup world, I see these trends are definitely shaping the funding models of the future."


5 marketing megatrends you can't ignore - iMediaConnection.com

"I just wrote this article for iMedia Connection and it's gotten some buzz (I measure buzz by retweets these days — this one got over 90 the day it was published). I'd love to hear your thoughts in comments."
Our society is undergoing massive fundamental transitions. Learn how these forward-thinking brands seized the underlying marketing opportunities.


Riding the Google Wave

Another guest post here, this time from Tractionista Carly Schwartz — @carlicita to the twitterati. Carly got her hands on a prized Google Wave invite (eat your heart out Willie Wonka — golden tickets got nothing on these). Her thoughts are below. And a few of mine are below that.

Carly says...

When I first heard about Google Wave, a pair of Australian developers’ take on the next generation of online conversation, I was skeptical. A longtime Gmail loyalist, I couldn’t understand what, exactly, needed fixing. Then the Mountain View megacompany released its demo to a limited, invite-only audience, and the blogosphere exploded.

After reading 140-character testimonials about the supposedly revolutionary—and highly exclusive—communication platform, I started to feel left out. When access trickled to a handful of my friends, I watched as they, too, tweeted their success stories.

Resolving to become a part of their inner circle, I submitted countless requests, even penning a Limerick (“There once was a girl named Carly, who thought Google Wave was quite gnarly…”). Luckily I managed to convince my roommate, a Google product manager, to trade me his last invite for a bottle of cheap champagne. Voila! Instant access to the Internet elite.

Google Wave is, in essence, email to the umpteenth power. It combines rich media like photos, videos, maps, and application plug-ins into a hosted conversation that can be edited in real-time by multiple end-users who share access. As edits are designed to flow seamlessly, such documents are called “waves.” Anyone added to a wave can invite anyone else they choose, thus eliminating the need for CCing and pesky 37-person e-mail chains.

Google captures a version of the wave as each new edit is made, allowing users to go back and view the document at every stage of the creation process using a simple “playback” button. Once the program is universally released, developers will have a field day creating extensions from Twitter plug-ins to Scrabble games using the wave’s easily accessible API.

Pretty nifty, no? In theory, Google Wave is the answer to collaboration and conversation in the twenty-first century. Gone are the days of clogged inboxes and larger-than-life attachments. Instead, the wave provides users with a full aggregation of all their media, the richest of rich communication tools.

Perhaps I wanted to throw a party for my friend’s twenty-fifth birthday. Using Google Wave as my primary means of communication would allow guests to divvy up responsibilities, determine a date and time that works best, map the location, tally up the invitees, and even share incriminating photos the morning after—all in a single shared document.

Or say Traction needed to conduct an internal brainstorm before a major client meeting. If said discussion took place via Wave, we could edit one another’s work, embed media to support our talking points, and finish with a clean final product.

But in its beta phase, developers still have more than a few bugs to zap. And even if every kink were ironed out perfectly before the program’s universal launch, Google Wave would still have its fair share of issues.

For one, a clunky interface prohibits users from accessing more than one wave at a time, making multiple conversations at once nearly impossible. Moreover, the ability to add anyone to a wave at any time takes the intimacy and confidentiality out of one-on-one communication.

Real-time editing, as cool as it is to watch, seems to me like a recipe for digital disagreements if certain wave users don’t like the changes others make. And a slew of awkward features, from the confusingly small scrollbars to the inability to actually delete waves (Google calls it “muting” instead), may deter otherwise early adopters.

After a week of playing in the waves, I’m equal parts impressed and ambivalent. The ability to communicate using a smorgasbord of media in one place is fascinating, but I can’t shake the notion that those Aussie developers tried to find a solution to a problem that never existed. I give it at least five years before the wave becomes, er, a tsunami. Until then, TwitMyFaceTubeGmailpedia will have to suffice.

And I say...

What's on the mind of many marketers (or at least the hipster digital ones) is what will Google Wave mean to the future of marketing? Will it change everything? Will they have to figure out how to do their jobs all over once again?

The good news: not so much.

Don't get me wrong. It's a cool tool. It's got great potential for creating brand narratives that engage and involve consumers. We'll see lots of forward-thinking brands using it in innovative new ways. It is a very real tactic that will make it into the social media marketing strategies of 2011.

But a tactic is not a revolution. Neither is the Wave.


Zappos Presentation from the Inc. 500 | 5000

This is Tony Hsieh's presentation from the Inc. 500 | 5000 Conference I mentioned in my last post. Great advice on how to build a brand from the inside out.


2 things I learned at the Inc. 5000 Conference

I’m leaving the Inc. 500 | 5000 Conference in Washington D.C. feeling inspired. The Inc. 5000 is their list of the fastest growing companies in the United States over the past 4 years. This year, Traction was ranked #1399.

I go to a lot of industry events for advertising and digital media, so it was a refreshingly optimistic opportunity to be in the presence of an “industry” of entrepreneurs. To be honest, before I went, I wasn’t too enthused. But I left feeling really humbled to be among this proud group of people who are making the American Dream happen for themselves every day.

Sound sappy? Maybe, but it’s how I feel this morning.

Last night, they gave the Entrepreneur of the Year award to a woman who, despite being severely handicapped in a car accident when she was 23 years old, invented an “invisible bib” for people in wheelchairs to protect their clothes—and turned her idea into one of the 5000 fastest growing companies in America. I’ve never felt so genuinely humble.

The conference brought in one of the best list of speakers I’ve ever seen. Jim Collins, who wrote Good to Great, tore the house down. Tony Hsieh from Zappos spoke. Randall Graham from (Traction’s former client) Bonny Doon Vineyards. David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue. Eric Ryan from Method Products. BET founder, Robert Johnson. ZipCar CEO, Scott Griffith. And so on.

I even got to have a one-on-one conversation with Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke (see video below). I’m hoping he’ll consider me to be part of the advisory council to the new Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. We talked about Twitter and how Traction’s healthcare premiums (they went up 40% between 2007-2008).

So, what did I learn?

Two things:
• Truly great brands don’t define themselves by their products, but by the experiences they provide to their customers
• What you do on the inside is as important as what you portray outside in creating a real brand

Just two weeks ago, I was in Hangzhou, China as a guest of my client, Alibaba.com to attend their 10th anniversary celebration and the APEC SME (Small Medium Enterprise) Summit. Great speakers there too, including Bill Clinton and Nobel prize winner Mohammed Yunnis.

Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, also gave a great speech at APEC.

And, here’s something telling: The advice he gave was almost a carbon copy of the advice I heard over and over again at Inc. 5000.

• Zappos does not define itself as a great online shoe store. It’s their goal to provide the greatest customer service in the world.

• JetBlue does not define itself as the great airline. It’s their goal to provide the greatest customer service in the world.

• Starbucks does not define itself as a coffee company. It’s their goal to provide the greatest customer experience in the world.

And all of these leaders had the same thing to say about how to get there. Exceeding customer expectations was not the most important thing in the world for their companies. What was?

Exceeding employee expectations.

It all starts with providing the greatest employee experience in the world. It was striking that again and again, the thing that made all of these companies so great was their people and their people were great because they loved their jobs, understood the vision of the company and their role in it.

Zappos employees are offered $2,000 to quit anytime during their training period to weed out anyone who doesn’t truly believe in the vision. One JetBlue employee told David that she was famous because she worked there—people would call out to her in church and at the supermarket. Woo hoo, JetBlue. Stuff like that.

As a branding professional, these are two insights that are critical to understand. The world's greatest companies don't position themselves around product attributes or holes in the competitive landscape. They define themselves by the experience they deliver.

That experience is not window dressing. It starts at those companies' very core—their people.

Traction has defined our mission as being a respected creative agency where the experience getting there is as great as the work itself. Since, we started our company in 2001, we've had three people quit ever.

The Inc 5000 made me feel like we're on the right track.

MC Hammer on Social Media Strategies

This post was written by guest blogger, Jim Reed

During Adweek's Social Media Strategies conference this week, keynote speaker MC Hammer told a childhood story about how he would walk to the Oakland Coliseum on game days from his Oakland neighborhood and watch 50,000+ people stream into the stadium. It didn't take long for him to realize that the likelihood of someone buying something from him was pretty good. He wound up selling popcorn, peanuts, soda, etc. but Hammer makes this analogy to a group of social media marketers because the odds are in the numbers. Facebook now has more than 300 million active users, so in the long run marketers are bound to sell something.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are the latest toys for marketers to ponder, but the results are still to be determined. Conference panelists and speakers agreed that brands need to be on these platforms now because it takes time to gather a following, to get a stride, to see what works, and most importantly to provide a channel for your customers to reach out to you and hear from you. There was a lot of discussion about putting an actual human behind the tweets and status updates. Rather than a stiff corporate logo with carefully crafted copy for each tweet, consumers will identify more with a real person who can type with wit in real time. Dunkin Donuts has Dunkin Dave. Comcast, who has a notorious reputation for bad customer service, now has a guy name Frank answering customer complaints via Twitter. We at Traction have several humans chiming in (Adam, Theo, Renee, Kellie, Jim) – the point is to maintain a personal voice.

But what about Facebook? The big takeaway from Facebook is to remember that microsites are islands in the Internet – no one will visit your pretty microsite unless you spend great effort and great cost driving traffic to the site. So don't make a microsite experience on Facebook. Leverage the features inherent to social media by encouraging users to express themselves and share with their friends. At Traction we incorporate these strategies for our client, Adobe. On Facebook we encourage users to upload their own creative work, to participate in discussions, enter sweepstakes, and of course share content such as tutorials and interactive games.


Small is beautiful

I'm in Hongzhou, China at the APEC SME Summit. "Small is beautiful" is the theme of the day. This event coincides with the 10th birthday celebration of our client Alibaba.com. Kobe Bryant is speaking today and Bill Clinton will be speaking to this crowd via closed-circuit video.

So, it's a big deal.

It's been an amazing weekend so far. One that I'll not forget anytime soon. Last night, AliFest, was a bizarre and magnificent celebration of Alibaba's success over the past decade providing a platform for SMEs (small and midsize businesses) around the world to survive and grow.

More to come...

-- Posted from my iPhone


Interview with Pandora founder Tim Westergren

This week I had the honor of being the first-ever guest host on Susan Bratton's DishyMix podcast! My guest was Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora. If you don't know Pandora, it's a genius service—are recommendation engine that creates radio stations customized to your personal tastes in music. Have trouble finding the music you love? With Pandora, it finds you.

How? You'll have to listen to the interview. Good stuff.

Download it on iTunes here. I'll update this with a link to Susan's blog when she gets back from Burning Man and posts a transcript.


SXSW Panel Picker - Please Vote!

I've been nominated to be on two panels at SXSW and need your votes so I can go party in Austin. Voting ends Friday, September 4 so please vote before then. Just click on the links below to vote for each of the other panel topics! (you'll need to quickly register to submit your vote)

Traditional’s Dead--But is Digital Driving the Hearse?

Dinosaur RFPs: Should They Be Extinct?



Getting Dishy

If you're reading this blog, you're probably interested in marketing, advertising and technology. If that's the case, you might want to consider putting Susan Bratton's DishyMix podcast on your iPhone. It's a great little program where she interviews some amazingly smart and relevant people. Past guests have included Steve Wozniak, Alex Bogusky, Nolan Bushnell (inventor of Atari), Gina Bianchini (CEO of Ning), Seth Godin, John Battelle (Federated Media) and dozens of other really smart and knowledgeable people in the industry.

I listen to it all the time, so I was really pleased when Susan asked me to be on it a few months ago. Even more so when she invited me to guest host the show. I interviewed Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora.com and I'll publish a link when that episode goes live. It was really fun and Tim's an amazing guy and Pandora is revolutionizing how we discover and listen to music. Can't wait to share that.

A transcript of my interview and the actual podcast are available on the DishyMix blog. Here's an excerpt from the transcript that I liked (I took the liberty of editing out the "ums" and you knows"):

Adam Kleinberg: ... the vision that we have—that I found from our first website on the Way Back Machine—is still true to everything we say and believe today despite all of the web design agency, advertising agency, confusion along the way. There’s a vision that we’ve been true to all along…

Susan Bratton: What is it?

Adam Kleinberg: The vision is that everything is interactive. It’s all about the experience. What we have here that’s different from other agencies is that we have both a very established practice of human centered design, user experience design, and we also have a really great background in branding, advertising and design. We try to bring those two together into an approach that we call brand experience design. You ask us what we are? We try to avoid it ‘cause it sounds kind of buzz wordy—but we're brand experience designers. That’s really what we’re designing. Every point of contact between a brand and a consumer… I’m not saying we do everything. We don’t do PR. We do what we’re good at and we outsource the rest for sure. But, we’re taking a really holistic approach. We’ve even come up with an approach to communications design, communications planning, that we’re calling engineered marketing.

You know, the funnel doesn’t exist anymore, right? The marketing funnel is now…

Susan Bratton: No, the funnel is now shot full of holes, right?

Adam Kleinberg: Yeah, it’s a maze, right…

Susan Bratton: Or a siv.

Adam Kleinberg: So what do you do with that? There wass an e-marketer study last year that said 60 percent of consumers now rely on word of mouth for how they make purchase decisions. That’s up quite drastically from a few years before. I don’t want to throw out a statistic because I don’t have it specifically, but I believe it was in the range of 30 percent a few years earlier…

Susan Bratton: So twice as much.

Adam Kleinberg: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Adam Kleinberg: That means you’re in a world where contributors to your brand's story are as important as purchasers because purchasers are relying on contributors when they’re making purchase decisions. So you have to really think through all of these things. You know, one of the things—when we were frustrated about the lack of integration we were seeing—was: here’s a print ad, use the same photo in the banner ad. That’s not integration. Integration is thinking like where are people going to go, what are the opportunities, what are the possibilities, how are they linked together, what are the metrics that you’re assigning to track and optimize all of these things and how is everything working together, because every time a customer comes into contact with your brand it’s part of an overall brand experience.

Susan Bratton: So it’s planning, but it’s planning in the web world where so much of that contact is either IRL – In Real Life – or something that’s a touch point on the web that is something that a classy corporation is just getting their hands on, that change, right?

Adam Kleinberg: So we’re doing print, we’re doing TV downstairs, we’re even doing packaging, but we see them all as part of a brand interaction. We’ll think about where that print is driving someone online… We’re just doing wire frames that extend beyond the page out into the ether.

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Adam Kleinberg: You know, interactive goes beyond digital. I think everything is interactive.


What we do at Traction

Depending whom you ask, Traction is seen as a creative agency, an interactive agency, an ad agency, a design agency, a social media agency or some combination of the above. The common thread is that we design brand experiences across channels of communication. We believe everything is interactive.

In pitches, we illustrate that the marketing funnel (awareness, consideration, intent, action) no longer exists in a connected world. What’s more, consumers are now empowered to consume media on their own terms—meaning brands must provide relevance and value more than ever before. We have a flexible process framework for developing communications in this environment.

Every assignment has five phases: Learn, Plan, Concept, Build & Evolve. The three areas we generally apply our process are User Experience Design (web sites, apps, mobile, anything with an interface), Social Marketing programs and Integrated Branding & Advertising campaigns.

Strategy happens in the Learn, Plan and Concept phases. First we learn—we gather inputs from internal (client) sources, on the target audience and on the marketplace. Then we plan a strategy that aligns to our brand and digital philosophies.

We believe that in the mind of a consumer, a brand can be one thing. That one thing is not a box. It is a prism through which a brand can be expressed. The artifact that we use to express how we got to that one thing is called the Brand Strategy. This is one of two key deliverables of the Plan phase for our end-to-end brand process.

The second deliverable of the Plan phase is called the Interactive Strategy. We are an interactive agency, but we don’t limit that to digital. The artifact we produce here defines target media consumption and shows how we will move audiences from awareness through conversion (and conversation). We’ve been calling our approach to designing integrated communications plans “Engineered Marketing.”

First, we redefine the purchase continuum for a scenario. Then we develop a big creative idea. Next, we “engineer” a tactical multi-channel contact strategy that takes into account how people actually engage with a brand today. Finally we produce a narrative across tactics to drive measureable results. We define how we will measure success from the outset and provide a transparent view into program performance along the way.

Observing human behavior to design solutions that meet human needs has become a hallmark of the worlds’ leading product design companies. But, no one has applied design thinking to communications planning—until now.

At Traction, we create a brand narrative that aligns business objectives with human behavior.


How to have happy accidents

No, this is not a blog post about potty training (although that is a subject I know intimately).

Last night I had nothing to say, so I tweeted: "What should I write a blog post about?"

@Ray_anne responded:

@adamkleinberg write about accidents in life that turn out to be blessings...

So accidentally, here I am writing this post. A blessing? Maybe, maybe not. But I do believe that not only can accidents turn out to be blessings, there's a lot you can do to make sure that comes true.

My background in the ad agency business is on the creative side. As a designer, I've always seen my job as sculpting little accidents into solutions to creative challenges. To me, this is what the creative process is all about. Tiny experiments based on a framework of intuition, experience and common sense.

It's this framework that is the key.

When the economy collapsed and Theo and I got laid off from Tribal DDB in 2001—one year after being recruited to start their San Francisco office—that was an accident.

We thought we could create something better, so we started Traction. Now, BtoB Mag says we're the #1 interactive agency in the country. I feel confident saying that accident turned out to be a blessing.

Sure. Talent, hard work and luck all played a role. But I truly believe that it was having a consistent framework that has—and will—evolve us into a great company.

I recently peeked at the Wayback Machine to see Traction's original website. What struck me was that all the stuff we said when there were four of us working out of the spare bedroom of my apartment is still the stuff we're saying today. Things like:

"Messaging must be concise, relevant and compelling. The user experience rises to the forefront of consequence. A clearly defined benefit is imperative - a catchy tagline or jingle will not suffice. Simply put, a unique human insight must be presented to the consumer at all points of contact."

But, our goal is not just to produce great advertising, It is to produce a great company where the experience getting there is as great as the final work itself.

Life is the stuff that happens while you're making plans, after all.

To achieve our goal, we need accidents to become blessings all the time. We need a framework.

How do you define a framework? Well, what do you value?

At Traction, we've very clearly defined what we value: Candor, Communication, Great Work, Empathy and Integrity

This means that everyone in my organization can intuit the correct answer to a "what should I do?" question by looking at this framework.


Q. "Should I tell the client now that their expectations are unreasonable?"

A. (Hmm. Candor!) "Yes, I should."

Q. "Should I spend an extra hour on this ____ until I nail it?"

A. (Let's see. Great work!) "Yes, I should."

And so on.

By defining what it is YOU value and understanding how values contribute to your goal, you can give yourself the framework you need to fall uphill.

There will always be setbacks and challenges you can't control. Eventual outcomes, however, you have the power to guide. Having a framework, a mission and value system—call it what you will—sets you on a course.

Follow it.


Traction campaign for Alibaba.com makes WSJ

Check out the latest Traction campaign for Alibaba.com featured in the WSJ .

The first of three spots aired tonight on the premier of ABC's Shark Tank and the campaign website is at success.alibaba.com.

After you've checked out the campaign site, do a search and poke around Alibaba.com to get a sense how amazingly easy it is for people to find business partners across the globe. It blows my mind.


Dishymix Interview

My pal Susan Bratton just published an interview with me on her Dishymix podcast. We talk about all kinds of stuff from marketing integration to new agency models to our work with Livescribe and Alibaba.com to tai chi.

It's about a half hour long, so put it on your iPod and have a listen sometime.


My beef with @stanrapp

Recently, fellow twitterer @GaryHagestad accused me of being a little harsh toward direct marketing "icon" Stan Rapp in one of my tweets.

I'll admit, I was snarky. But too harsh? I don't think so. And I need more than 140 characters to explain why.

The alleged offense? I called Stan Rapp a dinosaur.

Here's the thread. You be the judge.

After seeing a snippet of conversation in my Twitter stream between @jaffejuice (top advertising blogger) and @stanrapp (famous mega-agency advertising executive):

stanrapp: @jaffejuice Twitter is for the birds.Much tweeting mostly about nothing more than people doing nothing.

jaffejuice: @stanrapp don't give up....perhaps the twits are on break today

So I wrote:

adamkleinberg: @jaffejuice re: @stanrapp "twitter is for the birds" <== spoken like a true dinosaur

And was challenged a short while later.

GaryHagestad: @adamkleinberg @jaffejuice re: @stanrapp "twitter is for the birds" <== spoken like a true dinosaur. Ouch! A little harsh, no?

No, Gary. I don't think so.

First, I'll admit to not being particularly enthralled by Stan the Man. I have great respect for his accomplishments with MRM, Rapp Collins and the rest. A mutual friend has told me he's a great guy. But he called me five years ago because he was looking to buy an interactive agency and he was a condescending ass on the phone. There's no reason to be rude to people.

Second, if you are going to put yourself out there the DM Hall of Famer writing the new book Reinventing DM, you open yourself to criticism. His comment "Much tweeting mostly about nothing more than people doing nothing" is the exact same comment I hear over and over again from people who have absolutely no understanding of the conversation happening on Twitter.

Twitter made the cover of Time magazine this month because Twitter (along with Facebook updates and LinkedIn status and FriendFeed and Tumblr and the list goes on and on...) represents an important new phenomenon that is forever changing the way we communicate. There is a broad conversation happening that is connecting all of us in a new way. We are sharing information, putting opinions out there that define us, building micro-connections that can lead to real relationships in a manner that cannot be dismissed as "nothing more than people doing nothing." And it's very relevant to direct marketing.

Anyone writing a book about Reinventing DM should know that. So I called him a dinosaur.


PRESS RELEASE: Alibaba.com Selects Traction and Mediasmith as Agency Partners for U.S. Brand Campaign

SAN FRANCISCO, May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Alibaba.com, the world's leading B2B ecommerce company, is expanding its U.S. presence this year and has named Traction (www.tractionco.com), a leading San Francisco-based advertising agency, as its agency of record to develop advertising, brand and interactive communications. The agency will partner with Mediasmith (www.mediasmith.com), a leader in digital media strategy and execution. Alibaba.com enables small businesses and entrepreneurs to enter global markets with its easy-to-use website that connects buyers and sellers around the world.

"Finding the right agency partners that understand our target market and bring unique perspective is important to Alibaba.com's U.S. strategy this year," stated Kelly Sang, General Manager of Alibaba U.S. "We are growing rapidly and want to take this opportunity to make more businesses and entrepreneurs aware of our ability to help them succeed in global trade, and we want to do that in an innovative and effective way."

"The world has changed and everyone knows it. Businesses - even the smallest businesses - can no longer afford to not be part of the global economy. Alibaba.com makes it a snap to connect buyers and sellers anywhere," added Adam Kleinberg, CEO and Founder of Traction. "We feel there is a tremendous opportunity for Alibaba.com in the U.S. to tell its story and show how it hands the power of the import/export business to small businesses and entrepreneurs."

Mediasmith CEO David L. Smith noted, "This is perfect timing to expand Alibaba.com's presence in the U.S. and we are more than excited to develop the media strategy that will create the awareness and user interaction needed for its success. Entrepreneurs are fearful about the current state of the economy. We're confident that they will see the true value of Alibaba.com to assist in growing their companies and their profitability." Smith added, "Working with Alibaba.com is consistent with Mediasmith's strategy of servicing international companies."

Traction has worked with a long list and wide variety of high profile clients including Adobe, Clos du Bois, Walmart.com, Sun Microsystems and Virgin Mobile. Adding Alibaba.com to this list further extends the spectrum of clients Traction has worked with.

About Traction

Traction Corporation was recently named the #1 interactive agency in the U.S. by BtoB Magazine. The agency's leadership maintains that they are a creative agency with a digital core that designs integrated brand experiences, social experiences and strategically driven user experiences engineered to move audiences from awareness through conversion. Founded in 2001, Traction is a full-service agency that develops campaigns from strategy through every consumer touch point, yet views everything they do as interactive. You can learn more about Traction at www.tractionco.com or follow the agency on Twitter at www.twitter.com/traction.

About Mediasmith

Mediasmith is an independent, award-winning digital media agency, with expertise in media strategy, planning, execution and metrics. Servicing clients directly or partnering with creative agencies, Mediasmith architects campaigns integrating traditional advertising, digital media, search, and emerging technologies. With web expertise dating back to 1995 and the introduction of the M3 service suite encompassing emerging technologies, social media and search, Mediasmith continues to be at the forefront of the evolving media landscape. In 2005, Mediasmith was awarded an Effie for its work on Napster, and named to the San Francisco 2006 Business Times Top 100 Fastest-Growing Private Companies. For more information, visit www.mediasmith.com.

About Alibaba.com Limited

Alibaba.com Limited (HKSE: 1688) (HK.1688) is the global leader in business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce and the flagship company of Alibaba Group. Founded in 1999, Alibaba.com makes it easy for millions of buyers and suppliers around the world to do business online through three marketplaces: a global trade marketplace (www.alibaba.com) for importers and exporters, a Chinese marketplace (www.alibaba.com.cn) for domestic trade in China, and, through an associated company, a Japanese marketplace (www.alibaba.co.jp) facilitating trade to and from Japan. Together, its marketplaces form a community of 38 million registered users from over 240 countries and regions. Headquartered in Hangzhou, Alibaba.com has offices in more than 40 cities across Greater China as well as in Europe and the United States.


Tough love for the jobless: Get a clue. Get a personal brand. Get a job.

"I'm sort of a producer. But I'm great in front of the client. So, I'm kind of an account director. And I'm very strategic. My last job I was the online strategist. I used to be creative director at my old agency."

How many times do I hear this on an interview? A lot.

In these tough times, many unemployed people are feeling desperate and don't want to leave any opportunity on the table. So they try to be everything. And wind up being nothing.

There's no better way to find your resume in the trash than not to tell me you do everything. I suspect other people fortunate enough to be hiring in the advertising industry feel the same.

At Traction, when we do brand positioning for a client, we always tell them that in the mind of the consumer, you can be one thing. Our General Manager, Russell Quinan, refers to branding as the Art of Sacrifice—a moniker that rings true.

Guess what? That applies to your personal brand too.

Here are a few tips on what to do and not to do when looking for a job in this economy.

1. If I'm hiring, I'm looking for someone with specific experience to fill a specific role. Are you an account person or a producer? A writer or a designer. As soon as you tell me you're more than one, you become neither in my eyes.

Could this mean you lose an opportunity because you weren't the right fit? Maybe, but you're losing it anyway by trying to be the jack-of-all-trades. Try to be everything, you become nothing.

2. By all means, share your wonderful other qualities—but show me how they support how you define yourself. A brand position has supporting messages. Same goes for your personal brand. Being "good with clients" is a minimum standard for any senior position in my eyes. It's not a qualification to be an account director position on a multimillion dollar advertising account.

3. Don't be desperate. I often say business is like dating. When you're confident, you get the girls (so I hear). Same goes here. It's hard not to be desperate when you're... well, desperate. But it's not attractive.

Don't overcompensate and act cocky though. That's even worse.

Here's a tidbit that might help. Your interviewer WANTS to like you. They want to love you. They want to go to their boss and say "I found my girl!" and not have to take another huge chunk of time out of their day to schedule more interviews. Give them something to like.

4. Ask questions. Traction once lost a pitch for a hotel chain because the competing agencies called a few of the hotel managers to ask them questions about their needs, while we assumed we could guess what they were. I'll never make that mistake again.

Don't be afraid to email your interviewer about their needs before you meet. They may not answer if their buried, but they won't hold it against you for asking.

5. Feel free to discount this advice. There are exceptions. If you have a real reason to suspect that someone's looking for a jack-of-all-trades (like they told you they are), ignore my advice. But be discerning before you do.

Just like in focus groups, people tell you what they think they want, but that's not often the truth. Even when they're looking for a mutt to fit a couple of roles, they're looking for a specific mutt. Be that mutt, not another.

6. Build your personal brand online. In advertising today, everything is interactive. Even you. If you don't have a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account and a blog, get one.

Google has just launched Google Profiles. If you don't have one yet, get one. Here's why. When a hiring manager inevitably Googles you, you want to control what they see. Having a Google profile with your photo come up in search results is likely to draw the first click. You want to leave that up to chance?

I sincerely hope this advice is helpful. Feel its something many just need to hear. I wish you luck out there.


Ad Industry Innovator: Traction

Agency search consultant, David Wiggs, posted an interview with me on his blog at Marketing Hitch. Here's an excerpt:

We’ve all read that the pitch / RFP process is broken. Many agencies aren’t even interested in competing in pitches. Do you see an alternative to this process?

Sure. We have ten active clients right now. I think we only went through a pitch “process” for half of them. I just emailed a potential client a half hour ago to tell them we wouldn’t do spec work.

It really depends what kind of work you want to do. We walked into a capabilities presentation at a major consumer software company a few weeks ago, had a great meeting and got a call from their procurement department in the midst of celebratory margaritas 25 minutes later.

We ordered another round.

What does the agency of the future look like?

Interactive, obviously.

But more so, I think agencies are going to need to move up the value chain and become true strategic partners for their clients.

If agencies make their money producing banner resizes, pretty soon clients are going to ask, “Why don’t I just hire someone to do that?” On the other end of the spectrum, more and more publishers and providing brands with unique content integration opportunities and doing creative on their own.

What we can offer that is unique and invaluable are the abilities to uncover insights, to translate them into strategically relevant creative expressions of a brand, and to uncover opportunities to get those messages in front of the right audiences at the right time with the right vehicle. That will mean giving up some creative control at times, but it will also mean greater value will be placed on the strategic process and brand innovation that the agency of the future will bring.

What do marketers need that agencies are not giving them?

There’s a huge focus on ROI today and there’s good reason for that. But the result has been a slew of agencies that focus solely on performance marketing and are unwilling to take a risk. They’re afraid to fail.

Great ideas always feel like risks. They always make you nervous. Because great ideas challenge conventional notions. That’s what makes them great.

What marketers need and are not getting from agencies are efforts that bridge that gap. That offer breakthrough thinking married with best practices and a measured ROI. That’s the value we strive to bring our clients at Traction. I think we do a pretty good job.

You can read the rest of the post and see the rest of the series of interviews with marketing innovators here.


PRESS RELEASE: Traction named top interactive agency by BtoB Magazine

We're shouting from the rooftops and cracking the champagne over here at Traction. BtoB Mag just named Traction THE NUMBER ONE INTERACTIVE AGENCY IN AMERICA. Wowsa.

Here's the press release:

Traction Named #1 Interactive Agency for 2009 by BtoB Magazine

SAN FRANCISCO – April 7 - Despite the turbulent economy, San Francisco interactive ad agency, Traction has had a year of new account wins, growth of existing accounts, award-winning marketing innovation and now, has been recognized by BtoB Magazine as the top interactive agency in the United States for 2009.

Traction’s billings soared by over 60% in 2008, fueled by new client wins for business-to-business clients such as Adobe, California Bank & Trust, Message Systems and Egencia (an Expedia company), and consumer brands like Walmart.com, CamelBak, AAA and DriversEd.com. The agency also saw additional revenue from growth of existing accounts, including Sun Microsystems.

Traction also has confidential relationships with one of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. and one of the most celebrated consumer electronic companies in the world.

Each year, BtoB names the top business-to-business agencies in the country. Traction was selected as the winner in the Interactive Agency category. Digitas was the runner-up in the category.

BtoB’s selection criteria include new account wins, growth of existing accounts, quality of campaigns and marketing innovation.

"We are a creative agency with a digital core. We are strategic in everything we do and see every point of contact between brands and their customers as interactive," said Adam Kleinberg, co-founder and CEO of Traction, winner of the interactive agency category, "we’ll use print or television, but view them as part of an interactive experience that always drives consumers online. What we do is design experiences—brand experiences, social experiences and user experiences—that seamlessly move people from awareness through conversion."

Traction’s main areas of focus in 2009 were providing a clear path to ROI for every engagement and developing best practices for emerging media channels. "We knew that for us to be successful, we had to become a metrics powerhouse so we could provide the value they need," said Kleinberg. "For our clients to be successful in a changing media universe, they also need to provide value to their customers. Innovation has been the key to make this happen—for both our agency and the brands we’re privileged to work with."

You can read the special report, 'BtoB' Top Agencies Report: Not all gloom and doom, in its entirety at http://tinyurl.com/btob-topagencies. Traction is featured at http://tinyurl.com/btob-traction.

About Traction
Traction is a creative agency with a digital core. Founded in 2001, the agency has crafted interactive marketing programs for Adobe, CamelBak, Clos du Bois, Sun, Virgin Mobile and Walmart. To view Traction’s work, visit www.tractionco.com or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/traction.


Assessing free social media metrics tools

After the Social Media Analytics panel got cancelled at the Web 2.0 Expo yesterday, I decided to do a little panel discussion of my own on the various tools out there. Luckily, my pal Dave Smith over at Mediasmith did a presentation at iMedia Breakthrough a few weeks ago on "The Surprising Power of Social Media Metrics." I'm using that as a starting point for an outline along with a few options we've used along the way in this post.

First, the free stuff:

Twitter Search - OK, so this is pretty basic, but it is a useful tool for measuring conversation about your brand. I just ran a search and saw 19 posts in the last 24 hours about my client Alibaba.com. Certainly indicates that we should be thinking about their Twitter strategy.

TweetGrid - Calls itself a Twitter Search dashboard that updates in real time. You can basically monitor several keywords and they all show up in boxes and update dynamically. Useful, I guess if you have all day to sit around staring at an ugly dashboard, but the UX is gross. Not for me.

Twist - This is a nice site because it gives you a chart for 7 or 30 days of conversational activity on Twitter for a keyword. Great to paste into a report. The problem is that it measures in intervals of 100 tweets, so if there's not a ton of conversation going on, your chart looks like a flat line. They have potentially cool drag and drop functionality that let's you zoom in, but it was buggy when I checked it out.

Twilert - This is a great tool for marketers who want to have an effective Twitter conversational marketing strategy. They have advanced search features (all/any/none of these words, by hashtag, sender, receiver, geography, and ATTITUDE) , so you can get alerts of all the people having conversation about a given topic and respond to them. Something every social community manager could use for Twitter.

SamePoint - This is a great tool for monitoring conversations. Rather than just one social tool like Twitter, you can look at all social media or set filters. A quick search on Alibaba.com again gave me one column with results from across the social web (blogs, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Digg, Facebook...) and a second column showed Tweets. They also have a search plug-in for browsers that are OpenSearch compliant. No reporting, unfortunately, but awesome for real-time monitoring.

SocialMention - I like this even better than SamePoint. The level of filtering isn't as great, but it's a nicer UI. They don't offer much in the way of reporting, but do have a "social rank" score and some top level summary of sources of mentions (i.e. 50 from blogsearch.google.com, 20 from technorati.com, 20 from wikio, etc.). What I really like is that they have an open API, the ability to look at trending keywords and you can export a spreadsheet. Bookmarking this one!

Google Alerts - Like everything Google does, it's simple, basic and works great. News and blog posts about specific keywords delivered to your Inbox. Been using this for years. Don't plan on stopping.

PostRank - P"ostRank measures engagement by analyzing the types and frequency of an audience's interaction with online content. " This is a tool that basically tracks the re-sharing based on any original feed. It's great for getting granular on who is sharing what and how (i.e. who Dugg, commented or Twittered about your blog post). They are launching an Analytics tool, but it's still under wraps. Nice UI on this site. Have high hopes for the Analytics tool.

Google Insights for Search - This is a great tool for measuring search volume and I think a very valid way of measuring interest over time and by region. It also allows you to see related searches to dig into those. Great charts to show how many are searching for a term and where. I would say that if I wanted a true measure of brand awareness—or actually brand interest—this is an ideal tool.

Technorati Chart - Technorati allows you to search for blogs on a specific keyword, but what I really think is neat from an analytics perspective is their chart tool that allows you to compare how conversations in the blogosphere measure up across terms. Not exactly robust analytics, but a useful tool that I'll definitely use in the future to make a point.

BlogPulse - These guys have a number of tools for monitoring conversation. First, they have Trend Results, which basically produces the exact same chart as Technorati. It also has a Conversation Tracker tool, but the results were crap. When I searched for 'adam kleinberg' on social mention, I got 10 pages of results. On BlogPulse, just a handful and none of them were any of the dozens of blog posts and articles I've written. Doesn't bode well in my book. Plus, these free tools just seem to be a come-on to upgrade to Nielsen Online's BrandPulse product.

Trendpedia - Again, this is just a repeat of the Technorati compare chart. I'm totally underwhelmed, however. Of the three, I'd go with Technorati because I trust their information.

Trendrr - At first glance, this seems like a more powerful tool than either of the above, because you can specify data sources and customize the reporting you get to a much more robust level. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a confusing interface. After fighting with the log-in panel for five minutes, I gave up. But I might come back. Maybe. We'll see.

Facebook Lexicon - You guessed it. Tracks conversations on Facebook. On Facebook Walls, specifically. Decent enough tool to stick a chart in a report, but not mind-blowing insights by any means either.

That's an assessment of some of the free tools out there. More to come...


Marketing to Millennials link

I delivered a webinar yesterday for my alumni organization title the World has Changed: Marketing to the Millennial Generation. Someone asked me for some resources or links that I'd recommend to get a better understanding of this generation and emerging marketing tactics. I promised to post some links on my blog, so here are a few suggestions:

Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation This is a few years old now, but was the definitive text that coined the term "millennials" and first examined the fundamental traits that made them unique

Grown Up Digital This was the book I talked quite a bit about during my presentation. I saw the author speak at the Web 2.0 Summit a few years back and basically discuss the outline of this book. It really hones in on the impact of being the first generation to grow up as digital natives.

Wikinomics Same author as Grown Up Digital. This is not about millennials, but about the collaborative economy we live in today and the best book I've read on the underlying trends behind "Web 2.0."

Mavericks at Work Great book about brands who are thriving in the new world and doing things differently from the inside out. I think it's a must-read for all brand marketers.

Buzzmarketing Fantastic book about doing more with less. The best media you can buy is the media you don't pay for.

MIllennials Incorporated Haven't gotten to this one yet, but it's on my reading list.

iMedia Connection Great publication with loads of contributions from thought leaders in the emerging media and marketing space. I blog there and write the occasional feature piece.

Putting your content where it matters An article I wrote about how to reach consumers effectively in the emerging marketing world.

To download the powerpoint slides from my webinar, click here and then scroll to the bottom of the page to: “Attendees: Click Here."


Twitter Twips from SouthWest Air

If you weren't aware, I'm a complete Twitterholic. It seems, the rest of the crew at Traction is too. So, I was very pleased to be able to check out the session on Twitter at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Florida last week. The presentation was from Christi Day, the Online Spokesperson and Emerging Media Specialist from Southwest Airlines and Rodney Rumford (@rumford), the CEO of Gravitational Media and author of "Twitter as a Business Tool." It was a great session and I twittered the whole time.

Thought I'd compile my top 5 tweets here because there were some really great tips:

adamkleinberg: #imediasummit southwest air made sure they learned how to use twitter first... Use twitpic retweet @ msgs to followers

adamkleinberg: #imediasummit sw air says be fun, be real (but don't tweet about ur cat)

adamkleinberg: #imediasummit sw air uses twitter to release news before press release (but admits to twitter filter)

adamkleinberg: #imediasummit headlines help. Report all your good news.

adamkleinberg: #imediasummit sw air uses twiterfon, twitalyzer, 24-7 active, but don't let it control you, don't seek out and respond to gripers, respo ...

Twenjoy these twips.


Original Vision

I was just playing around with the Wayback Machine and found Traction's first website from back in 2001. Thought it was funny how our original (quite flowery) vision statement still really fits much of what we believe today. Thought I'd share:

We, as media professionals, are in a time of flux. As technology and advertising coincide, and social, political and economic trends shift, the messenger often becomes the message. Or the other way around. As these lines blur in communion, the audience comes into sharp focus: who they are, what they want. Our accuracy must be dead-on.

Messaging must be concise, relevant and compelling. The user experience rises to the forefront of consequence. A clearly defined benefit is imperative - a catchy tagline or jingle will not suffice. Simply put, a unique human insight must be presented to the consumer at all points of contact.

Traction is gripping power. In every aspect of our enterprise, we seek to arrest consumer consciousness. We create work with velocity and motion - a purposeful direction and a means to fulfillment. We use straightforward thinking to forge results through an ever-fluctuating societal landscape. Our clients are our partners. We strive to make their businesses succeed by providing the tools and the voice to ensure that their message is heard.


OPA's new ad formats and my awful quote in the L.A. Times

Yesterday, I was quoted in an article in the Los Angeles Times titled In-your-face Web ad formats popping up all over. The story was on the new "supersize" ad formats launched by the Online Publisher's Association. Reading back my quote almost made my stomach turn:

"A large-scale intrusive format is absolutely necessary in today's market," said Adam Kleinberg, chief executive of Traction, a San Francisco ad agency. "With the economy and the move to digital, the marketers are demanding a return on investment in every campaign."

Not that I was misquoted. I said it. I even meant it. It just sounded evil when I saw it in print.

First, let me state for the record: I’m not evil. (ok, maybe a little evil, but not in this instance). No one wants to be “intrusive” and disrupt someone’s experience—personally, I’m a big champion of user-centered experience design—but people need to get a grip. Here’s some reasons why:

1. This is nothing new. As a digital marketing creative pioneer, I’ve been making interstitials and rich media create ad units that disrupt the user experience for a decade already. Why is OPA standardizing some new formats suddenly so horrible? Even Google is getting in on the game announcing a partnership with Eyeblaster—and we all know Google isn’t evil.

2. Content needs to be paid for. Ads support the creation of good content. This is part of life. So is trying to skip them. When I was a kid and a commercial came on during Different Strokes, I’d go into the kitchen and annoy my mom. Sometimes she’d yell at me and I’d go back and watch the commercials. Digital media is no different. People are empowered so they skip ads when they can. But sometimes ads get through and that’s life.

3. People think they know what they want, but often they don’t. I’ve sat and talked to a lot of young people who’ve grown up in the digital age. To a one Ask anyone and they’ll all tell you they hate advertising. But, you know what? They’re all just as impacted by it as the rest of us… and when an ad is relevant to them, they appreciate it. Consumers can only really provide an honest guess about what they will do in a future situation, but the reality may be materially different.

4. Brands still need awareness and ROI. Audiences skip commercials on TV. 728s are next to invisible. People are spending their time online and brands have to either market to them or wither up and die. Currently, there are lots of publishers with unique ad units that allow us to do this (think MySpace homepage takeovers) but it’s very difficult to achieve positive ROI on a campaign when you have to spend thousands of dollars on one-off creative units. Standards for “intrusive” ad units are necessary. But that doesn't mean they have to turly be intrusive. As marketers, we have a responsibility to both our clients and our audiences to develop marketing that is engaging and "beneficial." Few people complain about advertising that they actually liked. Yes, I know that is a utopian vision of online advertising. And yes, I know marketers will continue to have ad concepts that are more "intrusive" then contextually appropriate. But used wisely, these formats can be at least more interesting and "accepted" then just eye sores. Hooray for OPA.

5. In this economy, marketers need to justify every dime they spend. That means digital. That means awareness being measured, imperfectly or not. That means new metrics like “dwell-time” and indirect measures like impact on search traffic.

My two cents, anyway.


Putting your content where it matters - iMediaConnection.com

"I just had this cover story published at iMediaConnection.com. Check it out!"
Consumers are empowered with the choice to consume media -- and embrace brands -- on their own terms. Use these techniques to give them a reason to choose yours.

Traction creative reel

I just found this on YouTube. Forgot I had posted it there:


Web Fonts

Tack, Top Nerd in Residence (a term I use with much due respect and deference) here at Traction, let the team in on a really interesting update on the current state of fonts on the web.

I'd like to take the opportunity to go into the current state of fonts on the web. There actually has been a mechanism in CSS for using any font you want, even if it isn't on the user's computer, for a long time. It's called @font-face. The thing is that this is another case where everybody at the party is wearing tuxes and evening gowns, except internet explorer which is wearing a leisure suit and swim flippers. Because fonts are copyrighted, browser vendors have taken 2 approaches to linking to them. All the sane browsers assume we're all adults, will purchase the fonts like we do with stock images and allow you to throw any truetype font you want on your web server and link to it in your code. Microsoft wants to have central repositories of fonts and DRM in cahoots with font vendors. So they've got another completely different font format they are pushing and don't support truetype. Well... your font may not exist in both formats so we end up in the same verdana et al situation. If we want uniform typography across browsers we can only use fonts that are everywhere.

If we ever get a web project where we don't care about IE, go nuts with fonts.

Thanks to Tack for all this blog post fodder. You are the wind beneath these wings.


Dealing with multiple APIs

I had a conversation with Tack, one of the lead web developers at Traction, last week about APIs. I had this theory that interactive agencies were facing a new problem I was calling "API fatigue." From my vantage point, it seems like there is a new API every week for our engineering team to learn: First there was ActionScript, then Facebook API, now OpenSocial, iPhone, Android, Salesforce.com, YouTube API, Amazon, API, Twitter API... the list goes on and on.

Surprisingly, he was dismissive about my concern. Here's an email he sent me following our conversation:

I was thinking about this a bit more since out discussion the other day. I don't think it [API fatigue] exists, at least in its semantic meaning. Programmers are constantly exposed to new API's throughout their careers. It would be akin to talking about plumbers getting "wrench fatigue." Every time we do something new, which should be constant in a fulfilling career, we learn parts of a new API or learn more about one we're already familiar with.

I think what you may be more wary of is the seeming explosion of new APIs available. And, the work of keeping up with it all that goes along with such growth.

This would have been a big hill to climb before wiki's and blogs. It used to be that in order to evaluate and learn a new API you'd have to take a blind leap into a book on the subject (after doing the work of discovering the subject) hoping the book was decent. And you'd have to go through that cycle every time you wanted to learn some new tricks. Now the work of discovery can be done passively via RSS. Blogs like ajaxian for instance are constantly reporting on developments in AJAX that you can scan via RSS and bookmark for later. And wikis allow people to outline the strengths and weaknesses of a new API along with collectively documenting how to get the most out of it. You buy the book after you've decided it's a worthwhile skill to develop.

As far as how to keep companies and teams abreast of the state of the art, I think that it's important to factor in time for developers to do a little research and share what they've learned with the rest of the team. This could be in the form of making allowances for side projects (like Google's 20% time or just allowing developers to pursue hobby development in slow times) and scheduling time for teams to gather socially. Like a team lunch or happy hour. This encourages developers to research what they're passionate about and think outside of their workaday box. And, share the roadblocks they've faced with each other so that the others can offer suggestions they'd never have thought of on their own.

The surge in innovation in this space is built on the tools you need to keep up with it. Group discovery and the knowledge of crowds. Nurture that and you may get both a great team and great innovations.

There you have it, boys and girls. The cure for API Fatigue Syndrome: the wisdom of crowds and a pint of beer.