Cue The Future


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

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:

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!

Predicting Facebook Presence (social location sharing)

I had lunch with a buddy last week and he asked me what I thought Facebook would do about mobile location. I told him that I had no idea, but that I know what I’d do in their place. So on my flight home, I wrote this, intending to email it around – but, since the talented MG wrote about Facebook’s location plans on TechCrunch today – I thought this might be interesting to more people. It sounds like Facebook isn’t taking the route I lay-out below; I’m excited to see what they do instead!  If you want to read about Facebook’s actual strategy, check out MG’s article linked above and Ian Schafer’s article in AdAge today: How Facebook’s Geo-Networking Plans Will Change Everything.

Facebook has ~500 Million users and an interest in getting data they can target advertisements against. This gives them a very good reason to get into the location game. However, competing directly with the likes of GoWalla or FourSquare seems an inefficient way to complete this goal. Their goals are two-fold: creating an experience users love and collecting good data that advertisers can use to more effectively target their ads.

There are four things Facebook could do together in order to accomplish this:

  1. Incentivize mobile location companies to tie location data to a user’s Facebook profile and to share that data back to the network.
  2. Create a compelling experience for users around location data that’s complementary to other mobile location players.
  3. Turn user check-in locations into targeting data available for advertisers.
  4. Sell ads targeted to passive users (Brand Advertising) while letting mobile location companies sell ads that target users involved in a direct experience (Direct Response).

I think each one of these steps requires a decent amount of space to properly detail (which I hope to sit down and do at some point), so for now I’ll paint in broad strokes.  Companies like GoWalla and Foursquare are quickly acquiring new users, but their biggest need is generating more users. Location is a network effects business, effectively making this a heads-up, winner take-all battle.

Incentivize Data Sharing

Companies are already using Broadcast networks like Twitter and Facebook – MyTown (another player in the space) rapidly grew to 1.5M users using viral channels on Facebook. Solid utilization of Facebook could give a location player an advantage in the war for users. If Facebook built a complementary business around location that helped those companies increase adoption, it’s likely many of them would take it (and give Facebook access to its location data).

Create a Compelling Experience

Facebook isn’t going to mess-up the user experience in order to unlock an additive amount of advertiser value – but getting location sharing right represents a serious improvement to user’s lives. Here’s how they could do that:

  1. Create a data point about a user that represented their most-recent location (call this: “Location Status”).
  2. Allow users to update using standards status update with special syntax: (i.e. “I’m at” @[Location] [contextual information])
    • Also allow users to connect with a service to update this (i.e. let GoWalla update my fb location)
  3. Surface Location Status in proper ways on the site (box on profile, stream updates, mobile subscriptions)

    Facebook should protect the UX and Privacy settings in order to stop malicious platform applications use this data, and each user should get full control over how they share location (on profile, in newsfeed, and/or allowing friends to subscribe to — or request subscription to — mobile updates) as well as who to share it with (allowed applications and friend lists).

    The location status update should include prominent reference to the update source, which would create a viral distribution channel to act as an incentive for location services to encourage users to allow them to write to the location status. Facebook could clearly communicate their strategy re: competition and hopefully win the trust of location players — Location Services are invested in several things:

    1. Building great user experiences around checking-in
    2. Creating databases to turn machine co-ordinates into user recognizable locations.
    3. Addictive mechanics to keep users coming back

    These companies could easily compete against the “Location Status Update” user experience provided by Facebook, and own the check-in. As long as Facebook clearly indicated that they’d prefer third parties owning the check-in (and having a direct relationship with the user), Location Service companies can decide for themselves whether the additional viral channels is worth sharing data with Facebook (a competitor in ad dollars)

    My guess is most will do so because user adoption benefits them in such a competitive market, but some won’t because they don’t like sharing valuable/proprietary data with Facebook.  Facebook gets data for enabling the growth of partners, and users have an easier way to share location and connect with friends.

    Turn check-ins into targeting data

    This would let Facebook know a place’s name and location on a map from the check-in – but they have to invest in creating advertiser context. If they know I check into “Epicenter Cafe” on foursquare, Facebook has to figure out what that says about me that advertisers might want to target against. Here are some examples of valuable targeting criteria you could extract from check-ins:

    • City/Neighboorhood
    • Category of establishment
    • Social Graph Representation (does that location have a facebook page, for example).
    • Etc.

    Two different advertisements

    Facebook’s ads are setup well to be persistent and targeted rather then presented in direct context – so they’ll enable those demand-gen type of advertising programs.  Location services can focus on highly engaging and contextual monetization programs (like sponsored badges, loyalty programs with establishments, geo-targeted offers, etc.).

    Taking this into account, it’s likely that Facebook could exist peacefully with several different location services. It’s likely that those players would be either focused on loyalty programs (huge market) or be smaller companies. It’s also worth noting that

    Worth Noting:

    • The Zynga/Facebook fight going on right now is the biggest danger to announcing a program like this.
    • Foursquare, in particular, would likely be very unhappy about this, With their fundraising and valuation they would have a hard time justifying giving data away to a potential competitor for location based ad programs, yet they can’t afford to fall behind in user adoption  for their product.
    • Presence was the coolest thing at F8 – the folks that put that together have already shown you some of the amazing things that could be the early version of the location status update formats. If Facebook wanted to go this alone, they could be VERY competitive, but I think they don’t need to use the resources for this.
    • Facebook looks like it wants to go head-to-head with check-in services. Facebook wants to encourage every user on their service to be a mobile user (mobile users are more active and less likely to leave), this alone may be enough of a driver to launch their own check-in service. As well, they may want to extract more advertiser value and try to launch a contextual advertising offering at the point of check-in.

    Getting to the second stage of hiring

    We’re going through some hiring right now, and every time we do a round of hiring I learn something new. Acting as a hiring manager (especially if the hire will report to someone else) gives you a rare opportunity to view both sides of the problem (what am I looking for from the perfect candidate and what would make the perfect candidate excited about our company and our process). The first time you lead a serious hiring process, you learn a lot about yourself and the path your career is on — it represents the quickest accumulation of knowledge towards career development (in my humble opinion).  I’d love to write a lengthier post on what I’ve learned through hiring (I’ll add it to the list of topics), but today I’m in the thick of reviewing resumes and I’d rather share some tips on how to get past the first stage and how to communicate with hiring managers.

    1. If the job listing gives a specific way to contact the company, follow it to a tee. The more specific the instructions, the more this applies. ~50% of applicants are “spray-and-pray” job hunting. I want to avoid hiring these people at all costs. This is as simple as throwing a very easier curveball into standard application procedure (my favorite is to ask for PDF attachement of resume and the cover letter printed in the body of the email with a specific subject line such as “EA Position Inquiry.” Miss any of those? You will not be getting an interview 99.999% of the time.
    2. Always, Always go above and beyond if you think of a way to be helpful to the hiring manager. I had a candidate recently say “I know you requested a resume, and you may find it attached, however I’ve always found LinkedIn profiles to be easier to read than attached PDFs, so I’ve included that as well:” This let’s me know the person thinks beyond instructions (yet still follows directly laid out commands), and is capable of placing themselves in others shoes.
    3. Don’t show off flowery writing. I’ver written published poetry, I have a love for witty turns-of-phrase, and I’ve read some beautifully written cover letters that I stopped reading halfway through. The world of business rewards clear, succinct communication. Save the pontification for your blog (why do you think I write this damn thing?)
    4. The previous point is if you are a great writer. If you’re a mediocre writer DO NOT try to use large words or clever phrases to prove your intelligence. Be thankful that, in most cases, the business world only requires general clarity and not fanciful method. With all the time you’ve saved looking up words in the Thesaurus, go back and delete 30-70% of the words you wrote without altering the meaning.
    5. Answer any questions clearly and upfront in the cover letter (eg “I know I’m over/under-qualified, but here’s why I am applying”).
    6. List relevant skills/positions (no more than 2-3) in the cover letter.

    Twitter+SXSW, Still Killing It!

    There’s been some speculation about what would be the Twitter of SXSW 2009. What breakout app would everyone begin to know and love. And while your answer might be foursquare, the real answer is Twitter. There was no more powerful tool for communication and sharing than good old twitter. Actually, the breakout app this year might be Tweetdeck, many here were using it and I personally converted at least 3 people to use it.

    So what does tweeting your experience at SXSW result in?

    I added well over 100 followers in the last 7 days:

    Graph from

    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.