Cue The Future


"I'm living in the future, so the present is my past" -Kayne West

Estee Lauder's impressive commitment

I’m in New York today for the Estee Lauder Digital Media day. As I write this from the show floor in Chelsea, I look out upon 13 market leading digital companies invited to share knowledge with the Estee Lauder team. Companies like Facebook, Google, Bazaarvoice, Yahoo, Microsoft Advertising, and Involver are here working closely with about 400 people from every Estee Lauder brand.

This event is, in their own words, an investment in their team’s digital IQ — and it’s probably a pretty sizable investment based on the venue, speakers, and quantity of gourmet noshes I’m eating while I type. I don’t know of many companies willing to place this large a bet on educating their team, and it is an impressive display of commitment to marketing excellence from Estee Lauder as far as I’m concerned.

Jascha and I are both sincerely impressed, and this event has renewed my commitment to education. No matter how big your organization is, you need to earmark resources to continue learning new lessons. What have you done this month that has helped your team learn something that made their jobs easier?

At Involver, we have a culture of knowledge sharing. Whether it’s our brand team writing emails and blog posts about new opportunities in social, our sales team teaching each other productivity tricks in group demonstrations, or our technical team sharing the latest and greatest in new technology in weekly company demonstrations, we are always teaching ourselves new things so that we can better educate and serve our customers.

What do you do to insure your team stays on top of current knowledge?
How can we help your team learn more about the new digital landscape?

New Twitter technology helps brands integrate social and web strategy

Twitter has announced 3 things in 2010 that are horribly under-discussed, under-valued, and under-experimented on from a brand marketing perspective. As a brand strategist, I’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time thinking about the effect of social technology on traditional web marketing strategies. Specifically, the opportunities opened by Twitter’s @anywhere platform and Facebook’s Open Graph are extremely interesting.

In the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time thinking about website and content strategy for one of our clients, and have been doing some research on this blog and other sites. As a component of this, I’ve added Facebook Like Buttons and @anywhere hovercards to this blog. Now it’s easier for you to see the social context and metadata of what I’m writing about.  :)

I’ll write more about this (both publicly and privately) in the future, but here’s some tips on things to check out from Twitter, these implications of these 3 new products on the Brand Marketing ecosystem are large — folks in Retail and CPG should pay extra attention.

  • @anywhere – pull in twitter account context on a traditional website
  • Promoted Tweets – advertised next to contextually related search queries on Twitter Search
  • @earlybird – scarcity deals for consumers (in the same vein as Groupon)

I wrote about @earlybird’s launch on our Company blog, so go learn more about it here:

Digital Publishing Workflow Management

I have a serious problem with how I find, attend to, curate, add to, and finally, publish information. Here’s my basic flow today:

  • I use Facebook, Twitter, RSS, email and web-browsing to find interesting items.
  • Then I use Google Reader Shared Items, Twitter Starred Items, Facebook Likes, Instapaper, Delicious, and Tumblr Likes to store the things that get my attention.
  • Finally I publish a subset of those to 2 Tumblr Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and this blog to capture ideas and share what I find interesting
  • I’d like to review everything from a certain time period and collect the best ones for sending in an email (and I’d love a tool to help judge which in that mountain of sources got the most reaction from the world).

This is broken I need help in fixing this, and it could be helped by a very simple workflow tool.

I’d also like whatever tools I use to collect items that get my attention to add a data layer that I can use to make interesting connections later (example: tags in delicious).  Taxonomies and codification is good because it helps me understand the information better, however, I need to understand how I’m going to reference that taxonomy later if I’m expected to keep it up manually.

How many people have this problem? Is there a niche market product for this serving bloggers/journalists/intellectuals here?  What would a well-built “publishing workflow management for teams of 1” look like?

Anyone wanna ruminate on this one with me?  I have several ideas.

Smaller Ideas

I’m fascinated by people and companies who benefit from good content creation to support non-content business objectives:

  • Fred Wilson, Chris Dixon, and Mark Suster have materially changed the trajectory of their career by embracing blogging.
  • Venturehacks and Tim Ferriss created great evergreen content and collected niche audiences of the impressive people.
  • leveraged blog content + SEO to drive user adoption (sold to Intuit, 170 million).
  • Ramit Sethi and others do an incredible job of writing and sending email (and getting people to signup for emails).

All the blogs above are entities with clear revenue-generating goals, which means they must nail both content and distribution strategies.  My blog doesn’t have such a purpose now, so I don’t have to think as hard about distribution.  I get benefit from blogging (see why I blog), but the primary goal is self-improvement and self-training. Basically I find that sharing my ideas in public makes it easier to:

  1. Define my ideas more concretely
  2. Reference my ideas in a scalable manner
  3. Remember ideas later

The person who accomplishes this best, to my knowledge, is Ben Casnocha. He always shares interesting notes, on diverse topics, in manageable chunks — and he’s a more interesting person for it. I bet if you asked Ben, the discipline of posting frequent, keeps him sharp when he’s consuming content.  It certainly helps me be an active listener if I think I’ll have to recap or explain something.

In the interest of sharing more ideas, faster, I’m going to steal a post format from Ben.  Basically, I’m going to aim for shorter posts that describe more condensed amounts of thinking.  I will then close out that post and if there are any fascinating little idea treats that are worth sharing, I’ll attach them after 3 hash-tags at the bottom of the post. Observe…

###  Treats ###

*  I respect Caterina Fake (co-founder of Flickr and Hunch) a lot. Her blog is an infrequently updated must read. I recently tweeted that I thought Hunch was the most important longterm information base.  I discovered yesterday that Caterina Fake retweeted it.  Around the same time I tweeted a product idea for Quora. Charlie Cheever responded.  This is a one-time interaction with someone who might be fascinating to have a coffee with at some point, and it happens 1-3 times a month. I’m curious how to turn these interactions into something where I can open the door to further interaction and allow both them and I to judge whether there might be mutual value in connecting any further.  I have some theories I’ll be testing (offering to expand on initial idea in a 5-10min phone call, ask for email to follow-up with concise expansion of idea, ask for reaction to another idea I post on twitter or on my blog), but I’m open to suggestions.

* I’m interested in content marketing that allows for reader response, because I think it’s the best (read: fastest, cheapest, most effective) way of establishing credibility/thought-leadership in a field.  It’s unique in that it creates a relationship with the consumer of information and allows them to feel connected with you and the topic. That relationship is the key thing missing from most other markers of credibility (tv/print interviews, book writing, etc).

* I’m surprised blog tools don’t exist that integrate “activity elsewhere” into an appended item to your blog post. Would be fairly simple to aggregate a friend-feed style feed at the bottom of a post, time date it to include only the info since your last post, and create both a contextual record attached to the post and a database record allowing you to own (or at least recreate) all the data you’re publishing/sharing on social services.

Social Marketing = Short and Shareable (and frequent!)

Good social media marketing is reliant on frequent, short, and shareable/shareworthy content posting. This is because content is how you get people to move through the brand engagement funnel.

When I was speaking at the AMA a few weeks ago, my co-presentor and I prepared the following social marketing funnel:

Here’s the phase definitions:

  1. Unknown — the person is unfamiliar with your brand on social networks
  2. Attention — you do something that catches the attention of the person
  3. Line of Engagement — if your attention gathering event (or events) got a good reception, your audience will subscribe for more.
  4. Relationship — this is where users are encouraged to begin to moving through the “brand engagement funnel” by taking increasingly more brand friendly actions.
  5. Line of Trust — Once a user has learned through experience to trust you, then they will be more likely to convert into paying customers and/or serve as a brand ambassador.
  6. Advocacy — User will create value for you through buying something ($$$) or telling their friends (NPS).

Getting someone’s attention might require something more stunty then content, but once someone has passed the line of engagement, and is starting to move through the engagement funnel, the best way to convert that person is simple: keep good quality messaging coming. Those messages should be short (<255 characters), contain engaging content, and be something that your users either a) viscerally enjoy (game) or b) will get credit from their friends for finding (utility).

Email me for more info or with your thoughts on the issue.

###  Unrelated:
* I’m struggling with a “Personal CRM” problem — remembering to stay in touch with people in my network during a fast-growth phase of a company is very difficult. Do you have any recommendations for a system or piece of software to solve this issue?

* The act of codifying information as I discover it helps me think more concretely about it’s value to myself and to others. I’d love a contact system and a bookmarking system that used game mechanics and public comparison to force me to codify links and people for proper future finding. Right now I codify many interesting web pages at

By the way:
I’ve refreshed the design here. It’s subtle, but I cleaned up the sidebars, removed some legacy javascript code that was slowing down the site, and added some recent speaking engagements to the site. Hope you enjoy it!

About the Author

Tyler Willis is the Vice President of Business Development at Unified, which builds enterprise marketing technology for brands and agencies.

This blog is about how the future will affect technology, marketing, and the things we care about most. Learn more about Tyler.


Tyler is a featured speaker and instructor for The American Marketing Association, and is a popular speaker on topics related to social marketing and how technology is changing our lives.

Recent engagements:
- South by Southwest
- American Marketing Association
- TMP Directional Marketing Client Summit

Email for Speaking Requests.

Lightweight Update

I write infrequent (quarterly at most), semi-formal updates of what I'm doing and thinking.