by Social Buzz on 22 May 2013 permalink
Pinterest has undergone a stellar growth much to the chagrin of the early venture capitalists who turned it down. It really feels like a "make-your-own" woman's magazine with colourful columns of appealing images from fashion to homewares and baby accessories. Obviously for men you would replace that with vintage cars, pin-ups and football.
The general feel is that of an orderly collection of magazine clippings - not just your own that you dutifully pasted there for later recall - but also those of your friends and strangers you decided to follow. And here is the distinction. They are basically two sorts of players there. The consumers and the publishers. The consumers, that's you and your circle of friends who have migrated there from facebook. The publishers are the people pumping all the hot material onto this platform. When I say pumping I really mean it. Some folks have uploaded in excess of thousands of pins and have millions of followers. Now, obviously they didn't do that on their own but with the help of some tweaking from above...
And this is the point: there is no need for ads on the side like facebook does. Every pin is a link to the outside internet. Some fashion accessory stores have a profile there full of their merchandise. People can repin that stuff onto their own page and you wouldn't know what is advertising and what is not. Further the viral nature of pinterest is that for the sake of daydreaming about some expensive jewellery you can't afford, you also induce your friends in your own envy.or covetousness.
This as it may, there is a pegging of the odds of your pins being actually seen by a reasonable number of people.
Unlike facebook, pinterest didn't make the mistake of being all things to all people. There are no games to play, no instant messaging, no apps to siphon out your personal data and no API to automatically upload pins. So far linkedIn is safe. You wouldn't use pinterest to find job connections.
There is some contention about the breach of copyrights for images uploaded. Stock photo libraries are up in arms about their photos finding their way up there when the terms of service say that anything uploaded belongs to pinterest (!)
Anothe reason for the growth is that key people in the industry are changing ship. Jon Jenkins left amazon to be the new head of engineering. Tim Kendall, who directed facebook's monetization programs has also joined pinterest.
So if you thought pinterest was another innocent bookmarking website - think again. All the vested interests are playing out
The curse of Email
by Social Buzz on 15 May 2013 permalink
Besides the routine annoyance of spam, have you been fretting about not knowing whether an important email you sent actually reached its destination?
Email is now the de-facto form of electronic communication where everything from resumes for job applications to invoices for customer payment are traversing cyberspace.
Well, that is progress you might think. Think of the trees saved when we cut down all that paper plus the fuel used by the postal service to physically carry all those letters. Instead they have a resurgence of business in parcel deliveries for Amazon and eBay.
Email is at breaking point on several fronts. The system has been rorted for lack of consensus. It is still technically possible to send emails while impersonating someone else's identity. Originally that wasn't thought as an issue - who would send you a message when you have no way to reply to that person? If the sender hasn't got the password to the mailbox they use as a return address, that's their stupid fault - and nothing more... until someone discovered that unlike SMS, it is free to send one email, two, twenty, a hundred, five thousands, one million... Now you get the picture!
Every conman, every crime syndicate jumped on the bandwagon to sell you everything from slimming pills to erectile improvement cream.
Today it is a common dirty trick to spam the world on behalf of one of your competitors and get them to become blacklisted. You can pay people in India a pittance do to that dirty work for you without leave a trace.
Despite all the advancements in technology, an email is still today a humble text file. It has two parts, the header and the body. The headers now can become much larger that the one-liner message you just dispatched. Spam tracking software pass their opinion on whether what you just sent might be spam or not.
People who get tired of your fourth or fifth newsletter may not bother to click the unsubscribe link and get you reported as spam instead - even though they were the ones to give you their email address in the first place...
A good example: Return receipts would be a most desirable feature but they can be ignored - making the whole process useless. Besides fraudsters use it to see if their emails reached past firewalls, etc... They have the numbers on their side. You are concerned about your one email being read by its recipient. Instead they are curious if one email made it to the White House out of the millions they sent...
How compelling was your user experience?
by Social Buzz on 08 May 2013 permalink
Marketing jargon uses the term "hassle map" to describe the list of things that would put you off an otherwise appealing product or service. Many examples abound, for instance:
Zipcar had everything worked out to provide urban residents with access to a vehicle if and when they needed it. The insurance, the magnetic card to unlock the doors, the website to make your booking - everything was perfect until they discovered that the one make or break issue was - proximity. If the rental parking lot was more that 10 minutes walking distance from home, customers were not interested.
So indeed it pays to ask the right questions. Unfortunately, people who don't buy your product don't tell you why unless you are very cunning in finding out what's going on...
Another example: 91% of people under the age of 40 who attended a philharmonic orchestra concert never attended again! What a drop-out rate! What on earth would put them off so badly? Wait - the answer is quite earth shattering... The survey found that 1) they hated the hassle of finding parking downtown and 2) they resented the no refund policy which meant a waste of money if a job commitment or some other contingency sprung up. This is the sort of marketing blunder that can make or break the livelihood of a classical orchestra. Old timers have long learned to work around those issues but the fast paced new generation would have none of it. The solution was rather simple once you know what the issue is. The promoters promptly offered a sweet deal with the local parking station and offered refundable / re-bookable tickets.
Sometimes a company is devoid of meaningful feedback from the shop-floor so to speak - especially if they are selling through a network of distributors. Look at a family-run grocery chain where the emphasis is on personal service. Everybody claims they give good customer service but do they really listen to their customers? Why does a grocery store diversify in selected wines or speciality cheeses? Simply because a customer expressed the need for it and they have learned the art of meeting people's needs... How did that need got relayed upward to be acted upon? Well some managerial folks work incognito in the store with their eyes opened and their ears tuned in. They might take a shift at the cash register one moment or help setup a display on the shelves. All along they collate information from consumers and employees alike. They would put off a corporate meeting rather than missing out on this feedback.
So we have been gifted with one mouth and two ears. It seems we ought to use them in that proportion.
Printing local money to take globalisation head on
by Social Buzz on 01 May 2013 permalink
The lingering global financial demise is prompting astute communities to take money matters into their own hands.
Today Bristol a town in the UK is launching their own currency to protect and boost their local economy. Some bystanders laugh at the waste of time and energy in duplicating what their Central Bank is doing. Local businesses jump on the bandwagon knowing this is their last line of defence against multinational conglomerates who have run them dry for so long.
It is a direct assault on global trade. The city of Bristol has launched its own currency, which cannot be used in Bath, never mind Berlin or Bombay. More than 350 firms in the city have signed up, making it the UK's largest alternative to sterling. Unlike previous schemes which have relied on paper, the Bristol Pound can be used online, even by mobile phone. If you lock the money into the area, rather than it going into the international finance system then you keep more money actually working in the city here. The idea is to help local traders by issuing money which customers can only use in their shops. In turn, customers know that the shop must then buy its stock from a local supplier, or pay a 3% fee to convert the Bristol Pound back into sterling.
In the Upper Bavarian town of Stefanskirchen the alternative currency is not some gimmicky fundraiser. It may look a little like Monopoly money, but the chiemgauer is real. One chiemgauer equals one euro. It's been around for eight years, almost as long as the euro, the common currency now used by 16 of the 27 EU members.
Gelleri, a high school teacher who established the chiemgauer, is proud that more than 600 regional businesses - from drugstores to architects - now accept the microcurrency.
"The chiemgauer is connected to the region. You can't speculate with it, you can't buy stocks or options or shares with it," he says.
In other words, you can only spend it in the area. Organizers insist the currency is meant to promote a "buy local" mentality and is a complement to the euro. The chiemgauer is not backed by federal or local governments, though some banks are offering loans and checking accounts in the currency.
But the fact that there are more than two dozen regional currencies like this in Germany - the most anywhere in the world - underscores the German ambivalence toward the euro.
Adoption of the euro was supposed to lead to a deeper, more coherent fiscal and political union. But the single currency hasn't really delivered on either.
And intended or not, the microcurrency trend plays into German nostalgia for the deutsche mark, the national currency that the euro replaced.
The WIR Bank is an independent complementary currency system in Switzerland that serves small and medium-sized businesses and retail customers. It exists only as a bookkeeping system, with no scrip, to facilitate transactions.
WIR was founded in 1934 by businessmen Werner Zimmermann and Paul Enz as a result of currency shortages and global financial instability.
WIR is both an abbreviation of Wirtschaftsring and the word for "we" in German, reminding participants that the economic circle is also a community. According to the cooperative's statutes, "Its purpose is to encourage participating members to put their buying power at each other's disposal and keep it circulating within their ranks, thereby providing members with additional sales volume."
Although WIR started with only 16 members, today it has grown to include 62,000. Total assets are approximately 3.0 billion CHF, as of 2005.
The WIR Bank was a not-for-profit entity, although that status changed during the Bank's expansion from 2005 onward. It has a stable history, not prone to failure as the current banking system is. It has remained fully operational during times of general economic crisis. The WIR Bank may even dampen downturns in the business cycle, helping to stabilize the Swiss economy during difficult times.
BerkShares are a local currency for the Berkshire region of Massachusetts. Dubbed a "great economic experiment" by the New York Times, BerkShares are a tool for community empowerment, enabling merchants and consumers to plant the seeds for an alternative economic future for their communities. Launched in the fall of 2006, BerkShares had a robust initiation, with over one million BerkShares circulated in the first nine months and over 2.7 million to date. Currently, more than four hundred businesses have signed up to accept the currency. Five different banks have partnered with BerkShares, with a total of thirteen branch offices now serving as exchange stations. For BerkShares, this is only the beginning. Future plans could involve BerkShares checking accounts, electronic transfer of funds, ATM machines, and even a loan program to facilitate the creation of new, local businesses manufacturing more of the goods that are used locally.
I think you get the idea now that groups of people are waking up to themselves and deciding not to wait for the global financial system to topple. It is not a matter of if but a matter of when.
So you've written a book - now what?
by Social Buzz on 24 Apr 2013 permalink
There is today a flood of self-published manuscripts bypassing the scrutiny of established book houses and trying to make a name for themselves. Publishing your own book has never been so easy. But the question is: Do you really have something meaningful to say?
People write for all sorts of reasons. Some might like to rhyme words for poetry or songwriting. Others use writing as a platform to get off their chest some deep trauma that is besetting them. Many don't have much of a literary style and would benefit from a ghostwriter. Painters and graphic artists try their hand at writing children books. Photographers compile a collection of images for a coffee table volume.
Book fairs used to put authors and publishers in touch with each other. But now everything has changed. Is reading becoming a lost activity like knitting or cooking or renovating your house? Observe commuters in public transport. Do their read books? Do they chat with their neighbours? No - some even shut down and dose off risking to miss the stop where they are supposed to get off. Most of them don some headphones and disappear into some music or podcast that only they know about. Others play video games on their smartphones out of utter boredom.
So in that environment, what sort of an audience can self-publishers expect? For starters, with self-publishing comes self promotion, or self advertising. Get all your friends in social media to "like" your page and download your dissertation and wait for the dollars to come in. Fat chance. If you are not a notoriety now, publishing an ebook is not going to make an inch of difference. Many pastors have used their congregation as guinea pigs to test the market for their preaching impact. Real-estate entrepreneurs have attempted to reveal the deep secrets of leveraging property investments. One bright spot in that fallible landscape is the personal testimony.
Some folks have gone to pain to chronicle their personal battles with injustice or mental illness. They are sought after by support groups who circulate information about their own issue and network together their experiences.
In the past, book launches involved having a public relations agent slot you in for as many breakfast or talkback shows as possible. For the self promoted author, the equivalent would be some homegrown social media campaign. Ten years ago you would start a blog and compile all your posts into a book and make a tidy profit out of it. That was the days of Problogger and Seth Godin. Today there is total saturation.
Self promotion is awfully hard. Better to let others brag about you and let the thing go viral of its own accord. That would occur in an infinitesimal number of cases. Unless you have a truly outstanding story, you will not break above all the background noise.
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