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Oct. 11th, 2010

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The Social Network, and what's difficult about it

I guess it's natural, if you're someone like me - someone who's been close to (and part of) a few online startups, and someone who's been an avid user of various online social platforms from the earliest days - to want to write up your reactions when you see a movie like The Social Network. This won't be a movie review, though, I don't think. I mean, as a film, it's a fine piece of storytelling with good dialogue and good acting, beautiful sets and many solid directorial decisions. So that's about as much of a review as I feel it needs. If you haven't already, I'd suggest you go see it.

When you do see it, though, I want to know what you took away from it. Because I was pretty conflicted. I saw the dynamics of growth and loyalty pitted against one another, not because of flawed young personalities, but because of an institutionalized idea of what it means to succeed, and while I believe that's a common dilemma, I want to believe that it doesn't have to be.

I also saw the premise of innovation as a hybrid of plagiarism and derivation, and maybe there's something to that, but it's a pretty disappointing thought. I've thought a lot about creativity and innovation lately, and I do think it's often a marriage of two or more existing ideas that yields a novel outcome, but how novel the idea need necessarily be before it's innovative: that's the rub. In the case of this story, what was allegedly ripped off was itself a derivation: a Match.com for Harvard students, as the Mark Zuckerberg character says a few times. And at least in this retelling of the story, the Match.com-iness of the prototype of thefacebook.com didn't enter the equation until minutes before launch, and even then only as a marketing angle, not as a core feature.

And even when movie-Zuckerberg is conceptualizing thefacebook, he already has MySpace and Friendster to compare it to and contrast it with. It's not entirely new, it's just a little different.

And yet it's $25 billion dollars' worth of different. So which nuance is responsible for the value? Probably not any one nuance, but a whole magical set of nuances and circumstances that lined up just right. And as a student of innovation, that's both inspiring and frustrating.

On a side note, I get a funny reaction when I see Silicon Valley startup culture portrayed in movies or TV, and I think "I want to go there and be part of that." I forget, almost, that I sort of have been there and been part of that. But only sort of: I wasn't an entrepreneur, I was only along for other entrepreneurs' rides. I think the yearning has more to do with the fullness of it, and the large-scale-ness of it: of starting a company like Facebook and seeing it through to undeniable success.

I don't know what I envy so much about it: the pace, the genius, the accomplishment, or maybe a combination of it all. But I do know that as much as I love Nashville and want to see startup culture thrive here, it will never have that same thrill. That's OK, I guess: folks trade off that thrill for a quality of life in Nashville and other similar places that's harder to attain in the Bay Area due to cost of living and that same pace of work and competition.

Anyway, it feels only right to post this to LiveJournal, since that's where Mark was doing his blogging in the movie. I also haven't posted anything here in who-knows-how-long.

So who's seen it? What did you think?

Jan. 31st, 2009

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Do you know about redtagcrazy.com? It's like Woot.com for women's fashion

I'm utterly addicted to this site. I thought I'd share it by including the link for the refer-a-friend deal they have set up: a $5 credit at redtagcrazy.com for both of us if you find something you like enough to buy.

I haven't bought anything yet. I'm hoping they'll have some vegan/sustainable/bamboo/whatever kinds of items at some point, and then I'll spring on it like a mama leopard with hungry babies on an injured gazelle. You know what I mean.

Don't say I didn't warn you, though. It's even more addictive than Woot, because they give you an estimate of how long it'll be before the next sale. Now that I think about it, it's like a Woot-off every day. Seriously, I'm finding myself checking back nearly every 30 minutes all day.

As if Twitter, Facebook, email, and all the blogs I try to keep up with aren't sucking up enough of my time.

OK, one more peek at what's selling now, and then off to do anything more productive.

Nov. 16th, 2008

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The PubCon Twitter song. Apparently, this songwriter takes requests!

By somewhat popular request (OK: two people), I’m capturing the Twitter song here in my songwriting blog.

I’ve been trying to do better about keeping the content of this blog related to Honey Bowtie Music, meaning Karsten’s and my writing, our pitching & publishing, and our life at our home office & studio, so I wasn’t planning on doing any kind of post PubCon follow-up here, but hey! this is relevant to songwriting. It’s some of the only writing I did while I was in Las Vegas, so it counts.

The story is: on Wednesday afternoon, I was taking a break in my hotel room, watching the #pubcon search feed in Tweetdeck burn up while everyone chatted about the “5 bloggers and a microphone” session, when I noticed that Kate Morris tweeted:

#pubcon someone needs to write a country song about losing love for twitter!

Fearing that there might not be too many other songwriters in the PubCon crowd, I felt it my duty to respond to the call.

@katemorris Just for you: “A hundred forty letters / And spaces in between / Isn’t near enough room / To say what you really mean” #pubcon

@katemorris 2nd verse: “It’s getting kind of silly / How everyone I meet / Instead of asking if I blog / Now asks me if I tweet” #pubcon

@katemorris I’ll let the rest be crowdsourced. It’s more the Nashville songwriting style to collaborate anyway. :) #pubcon

Only the rest never ended up crowdsourced, since everyone was caught up in what was going on the session. I mean, how wrong is that? Paying attention to the panelists instead of Twitter?

So if you attended PubCon and you end up here after searching for blog posts about it, here’s your chance: take a swing at writing additional verses in the comments. This is not limited to PubCon attendees either. My Nashville buddies, long-time net-friends, and songwriting colleagues are all encouraged to play along. I’ll update the post with the song’s progression, and it will be ready for performance by March in Austin.

Everyone who comments with additional verses gets songwriting credit. As we say in Nashvegas, “add a word, get a third.”

So who’s up for some cowriting?

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 26th, 2008

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Amazon redesigns My Account page

Amazon.com - Your Account.png
Amazon has been doing some tinkering again, this time to their Account page. This set of tweaks was long overdue. They didn’t change the functionality of the page; just its organization and readability. But I noticed, as I hit my account this morning for the first time in a while, that it made a big difference in the confidence I felt approaching the page that I was about to find what I was looking for.

Big results like that out of organizational changes are priceless. Studies I’ve done in the past have suggested that if the customer feels that she can easily find what she’s looking for in her account page or section, she’s more likely to visit that page more often with minor questions. But if that page or section is difficult to navigate, she will avoid it, will use customer support channels more frequently, and will generally feel less confident in the site as a service. Clearly this has tremendous implications to customer lifetime value, so from an ROI standpoint, the Amazon account page is probably well justified.

But I haven’t even told you my favorite part of the redesign, yet. It’s on the FAQ page they put together to explain where everything is and why they did it. In answer to the question “How did you decide on this design?” they provide this answer:

We consulted the foremost experts in the field: our customers.

Well played, Amazon. This customer appreciates the effort.

see also:
Amazon site redesign
Amazon email mishap - “please fill in”
Amazon cart “saved for later” items gone?
Update from Amazon.com

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Oct. 24th, 2008

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It’s official: Sitening took me on.

From the Sitening blog:

Sitening LLC, a bright, growing web marketing agency has hired Internet veteran Kate O’Neill as Managing Director.

Sure, sure, I’m excited about “the focus we’re going to be able to apply” and joining “such a talented group of web professionals.” Whatever. The real reason this rocks is this:

Dude. Coffee goes high tech. I like it.

Originally published at Sticky, Sweet, & A Little Overdressed. You can comment here or there.

Aug. 24th, 2008

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Two updates and then a third, and finally a list

These aren't related (I don't think), but on Friday someone broke into our car window (annoying, but not that big of a deal really), and yesterday I started getting sick again, presumably from my thyroid acting weird (very annoying, and increasingly a big deal). Nothing much more to say about those, I guess: the first is already repaired, and the second will be handled soon enough by surgery and medication. I hope.

I'm also posting this directly in LiveJournal, you may notice. I've been working out my posting strategy for my LJ and the honeybowtie.com blog, as well as the new one I'm about to introduce, which has more of an interactive marketing focus. I want to keep the two blogs more topical, which means I think I'll be posting more of my non-topical observations here.

[And I just posted this by accident. Clearly I need to re-familiarize myself with the LJ posting tools. ;) ]

Just wanted to add that as many people's online presence gets to be more fragmented for the SEO benefit, not to mention the personal/professional delineation most people want, I suspect there will be a lot of this back and forth, changing strategies. It's an evolving process. So please bear with me. :)

I'm not ready to announce the new marketing blog yet, but here are the other relevant places where I spend time if you want to keep up with me:

The Bee Hive (http://www.honeybowtie.com/blog/)
Has been serving as an all-purpose blog, but increasingly, I'd like to start using this to capture my observations about songwriting, the creative process, the music business, etc.

My personal Twitter account (http://twitter.com/kateo)
Where I do a lot of my intermittent chatter. If you're not using Twitter, consider it. I find it's a good outlet and a great way to feel connected to friends throughout the day without needing to have specific IM conversations or whatever.

My work Twitter account (http://twitter.com/magazines_kate)
Where I chatter intermittently about work projects, complain about productivity issues (like, say, Twitter ;) ), and muse about marketing and e-commerce. It's not always as boring as it sounds, I swear. ;)

My FriendFeed account (http://friendfeed.com/kateoneill)
If you want to subscribe to an aggregation of my online activity (and/or anyone else's, for that matter), this is a great tool. It's always passively in use for me, and I use it actively off and on, mostly when Twitter is down (which is mercifully less common than it was a few months ago). If you haven't checked out FriendFeed, it's a pretty neat way to keep up with people who are spread out all over the web. Like me. :)

Aug. 4th, 2008

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Look here, youngun. I’m a danged EXPERT, and I say…

My first article in Circulation Management’s “Monday Morning Expert” column is now up on their web site:

Circulation Management Magazine - kate artice.png

Can’t believe anyone believes a word I say with a promo picture like that. :)

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Jul. 28th, 2008

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Six Easy Ways to Get Started in Behavioral Targeting

I got email this morning from an editor at Circulation Management asking for clarification on some of the points from the presentation at the Circulation Management show in Chicago a few weeks ago, and since I was writing up some thoughts for her, I thought I’d put them here, too. Enjoy!

Behavioral Targeting: Six Easy Ways to Get Started

  1. Read your reports for meaningful segments

    Chances are, you’re already collecting data that, when analyzed and applied, could optimize customers’ experience as well as your revenues. Most analytics platforms can tell you about new vs. returning visitors, and can usually further break the latter group down into first-time buyers vs. repeat customers. Chances are also pretty good that each of these groups is behaving somewhat to very differently on your site, and if you don’t figure out what works best for each, you’re leaving money on the table.

    chart up and to right.png

  2. Traditional direct response tactics still work

    Behavioral targeting and marketing approaches are heavily borrowed from the domain of direct response. Meaningful segments, appealing offers, and consistent remarketing are all part of a well-rounded practice.

  3. Focus on your easy-to-segment audiences

    Sometimes you can spot a useful segment, but actually breaking it out for targeting purposes may be trickier than you expect. (Geotargeting falls into this category for many sites). Unless you’re a black belt behavioral marketer and there’s nowhere else to turn for optimization, you probably have lower-hanging opportunities to pursue. Think in terms of both providing the biggest returns and taking on the least daunting setup to find the hidden treasure on your site.

  4. Start wide and optimize campaigns

    It’s likely that you can realize substantial gains in your success metrics by thinking at a high level about audience characteristics, and then monitoring more granular groupings for meaningful patterns. Most of the groupings you follow in any given campaign won’t perform in a way that bears statistically significant differences to your control group, but the ones that stand out can always be segments in a future campaign.

  5. Match message with media and audience

    The beauty of online marketing is the wealth of data and control you can exercise over context. The content you display on your site and in your ad networks can be adjusted based on any number of factors. Look for opportunities to tighten your message and your call to action based on context.

  6. Test, test, test

    The key lesson in all of this is: it depends. It depends on your audience, it depends on your site, it depends on the time of day, the time of week, the time of year, and so on. The only way you’ll know what works for any given audience for any given situation is to test it. And test it, and test it again. Invest in a testing platform and process that provides you with the flexibility and the visibility to act quickly and learn quickly, and it will pay for itself many times over.

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Jul. 3rd, 2008

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Update from Amazon.com

I got an email response from Amazon customer service:

Thank you for writing to us at Amazon.com.

I’m sorry for the trouble you had with your shopping cart.

I’ve reported the problem, and our technical team is working on taking care of it right now.

Often these errors are corrected after only a short time, so please try again after two or three days.

I understand that this might be causing you lot of inconvenience. Please understand that we are doing our best to resolve this problem, but technical glitches cannot be predicted and at times it is unmanageable.

Thanks for your patience while we fix this problem and thank you for shopping at Amazon.com.

[…]

Best regards,

Muzeeb
Amazon.com Customer Service

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

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A wordle of my own

I’ve seen some cool wordles, but it wasn’t until a friend posted one she created using a recent research paper that I got inspired to create one of my own. This wordle uses my “manifesto,” which was a 37-page, 6,889-word document outlining a proposed strategy for how we at Magazines.com interact with our customers to optimize lifetime value.

No surprise that “email” and “customers” are the prominent words for a visualization of a document describing, essentially, how best to communicate with our customers.

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

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