Cue The Future


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

How two companies overcome the biggest challenge in marketing (repeatable success stories)

“To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world, and we’re not gonna get a chance to get people to remember much about us… no company is.

So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us.”  – Steve Jobs describing the biggest problem that marketing squares off against, even today in 1997.

It hasn’t gotten better for marketing departments in the last 13 years — this problem has gotten much worse. The world we live in is far noisier and far more complex with every passing year, and this trend is continuing.

As our society progresses technologically, the amount of things vying for our attention grows exponentially. It gets progressively harder for marketers to get our attention; to tell us the stories about their brand that they want us to remember. Today, consumer attention is currently split across so many places that it’s even harder to do this on any one channel.

This trend works to decrease the value of marketing contact databases across time. People are paying less attention to their inboxes over time, less attention to their feed readers, less attention to ad spaces — so the relationships you build with consumers on any channel decays naturally. Consumers are moving to Facebook, Twitter and Mobile right now, but in time they’ll move on from there too.

Consumer attention is no longer captive — it floats free, between a flotilla of competing locations. Welcome to the Splinternet.

Marketing in the Splinternet era requires making sure your paid and earned media is unified to tell effective stories to your target audience across multiple channels.

Investments will be required in building audience relationships with consumers on multiple channels. Because we’re in the splinternet, each new channel you invest in acts as a hedge against the eventual dwindling attention in pre-existing channels.

I believe in the future of marketing, and embrace opportunities like this every day at Involver for marketing ourselves, developing our products, and educating our customers. In that vein, here are two examples you can emulate from companies who have developed fantastic marketing campaigns that embrace splinternet marketing: Dropbox and the Golden State Warriors.

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68 People Like This…

Facebook Likes are the new audience interaction. More than 50 people liked my post on Facebook simplifying their Facebook Page management tools on the Involver blog, yet only one person commented.

Now, granted, this is also indicative of a few other factors, most importantly: the topic matter wasn’t very evocative, there was nothing to create a vibrant discussion. But I found it interesting how popular the “like” action was. It also made me wonder, how many people shared comments or discussions along with the articles (or would if they were prompted to do so).

I’d love to see next-generation blogging platforms (Echo, Disqus, Intense Debate) aggregate comments and discussions back from Facebook in a better fashion than they do today. Because none of these do a great job of this today, I’ve started using Facebook as the sole commenting system on this blog. I use Facebook Comments to do this. I’d love to see this plug-in work more natively with pre-existing comments or non-signed in users. It’s not perfect yet, but this plugin is definitely on the right track.

The ability to import Facebook comments into the WordPress database and vice-versa is listed as an upcoming feature. That feature is going to make switching to this plugin much easier for most bloggers.

Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about Facebook’s new management tools for Facebook Pages, read about it on the Involver blog.

We were right about Bing + Facebook!

Today, Bing announced it has become a Facebook Instant Personalization partner, and is going to start using like data to change the way you comprehend your search results on Bing.

This is an incredibly smart move that I’ve wanted them to take for ages. In Social Data for Search Giants (a blog post I wrote here 1 year ago), I wrote the following:

Facebook could offer a Facebook Connect implementation specifically for search engines that allowed them to check URLs against a database of friend’s posted links.  This would allow the search engine to enhance relevancy. Think of it like this (forgive the quick/ugly mockup):

Now, I’m not going to sue Zuck and try to get on the Winklevoss retirement track. But, I think it’s fun that the actual implementation wasn’t too far off from my prediction. Here’s the examples back to back:

———– FWIW:

in the spirit of social design, I did a quick review. What did I miss from the final implementation?

  • I forgot Faces. In 09, I assumed that privacy concerns would keep personalization information limited to text. Swing and a miss — we now know that people want faces. They want to see who did what. Your social network is not made of equals, identity and context are very important for social interactions.
  • Places not Products. I thought they would initially roll this functionality out for places – instead they are rolling it out for products. In hindsight this is obvious because product pages have way more likes and are far easier to identify and organize sanely.
  • Too much info. I assumed Facebook would move to display comment and other meta data around posted links. It doesn’t look like this will be in rev 1.

Envisioning the future of Facebook Groups.

I have a ton of respect for Facebook’s product team, they consistently launch innovative products that pull their users, often kicking and screaming, into more engaging experiences. This requires two key skills:

1. Vision: predict what your customers want before anyone knows they’d use it. The next big thing looks like a toy.

In my opinion, Zuckerberg, Cox and others on Facebook’s Product team should be given the inaugural Henry Ford award. Facebook delivers what it’s customers actually want, despite their lack of knowledge that they want it. This is daily occurrence for fb: Closed Networks, NewsFeed, Profile Redesign, Open Graph, Platform, Pages, Internationalization, Chat, Privacy, Groups — and the list goes on.

2. Know when your customers are ready for the next bite-sized part your vision. Without this part, you aren’t successful, you are ahead of your time.

Facebook’s location patent was filed years before the launch of places. The “Awesome Button” (now Open Graph’s Like button) was built, to a launch ready state in November of 2007.

With that history in mind, I watch new product updates with fascination, and each new release inspires me to think about what might be next.

After the jump, reposted from Involver’s comprehensive post on Facebook Groups, is my take on what could be possible in the future.

Facebook could integrate Groups, Events, and Places to create a rich experience for users, with compelling value for brand marketers, business owners, and event hosts.

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How blogging rewired my brain

On a recent vacation, I experienced a fit of “small thoughts.”

For a few hours, every few minutes my brain was coming up with somewhat interesting tidbits that were fun to mull around. These ideas were not earth shatteringly brilliant by any measure, but represented a small change in my understanding of some concept not key to my day-to-day life. If your having a hard time visualizing what this type of idea might look like, here’s a good example.

I normally would have shared these ideas digitally as I had them, but I had no access to electronics on this trip. I also knew I wouldn’t be returning to the ability to blog or tweet for a long period of time (~two weeks).

With these limitations, I became very aware of the effort required to document each of these ideas — because I couldn’t immediately use these thoughts, I found my natural inclination was to decrease their value in my head and use that as an excuse to not write them down.

Personal-publishing tools like Twitter and Blogs are powerful motivators — they increase the value of thought capture by making each thoughts value as a final product clear. This effect incentivizes bloggers to capture more of their thoughts and evaluate/prepare them for public scrutiny which improves their thinking, and that’s why I tend to value the thinking of people who actively publish, even if it’s for an audience of one.

####   Related:

* I wrote a post on Why I Blog, which could be updated with the thesis from this post.

* I think Twitter is interesting because it makes it easy to capture interesting and seemingly inconsequential ideas. Having that information captured is good for increasing global knowledge, but the main benefit is in the process of refinement for the original thinker. Publishing makes one think better.

* If we follow the path of innovation in personal publishing, it seems to be about allowing people the opportunity to capture smaller and smaller thoughts. Extrapolating this out, I’d be interested in consumer web technology that makes it easier to capture original thoughts that appear, at first glance, to be entirely mundane and uninteresting. Perhaps a tweet represents the smallest unique item of thought, but I doubt it. I have a feeling there is still a lot of opportunity in working directly with people’s thoughts, with voice, or with their habit of keeping diaries. I think the format that becomes the smallest unique captured thought should be called “Thoughtlets

* The global database of ideas represented in the public nodes of personal publishing efforts (posts/tweets/delicious saves/etc.) is helping people learn today. I can pay attention to more of a persons thinking than I ever could in the past, because more of their thinking is being captured and they are making more of it public.  However, I still have a limited number of people I can pay attention to. The real game changer will come with the rise of machine learning. When tomorrow’s supercomputers can pay attention to everyone’s thoughts — we will have really interesting opportunities, and robot apocalypse.

* One such opportunity: Intellectual reputation can be ranked fairly, based on the clarity, power and originality of your thinking. With a benchmark (how well did it improve the machines capability for thought), there will be less subjectivity in this ranking.

* Chris Saad is an expert on Attention. I’d love to attend an event or a group of people thinking about the effect and future of attention. That would be fascinating.

* OhLife is a really interesting startup. I don’t think they have yet applied a “search for the thoughtlet” to their user experience, but i really like the idea of email based journaling.

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.