Cue The Future


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

Facebook Places for marketers

I penned a blog post that’s over 900 words about the Facebook Places launch as seen by Marketers. In it I discuss 13 facts about how Places will affect businesses. Go check it out on the Involver Blog! Here’s a small excerpt from the article:

How should I manage my Facebook Page and Facebook Place(s)?

  • Before managing your Facebook Place, you must claim it. The easiest way to do this is to accept a phone call at the number saved for that place. If this is not viable, then you can submit a document verification request instead, but this will take longer.
  • A Facebook Place can be merged with a Facebook Page.  If you merge your Place and Page, it will add maps, Check-ins, and Friend Activity Feeds to your current Facebook Page.
  • You can only attach one Facebook Place to a Facebook Page right now, it’s not advised to attach your Facebook Place to a page if you eventually want to attach multiple Places, as Facebook is working on a solution for this.
  • Involver Customers, if you attach your Facebook Place to your Page, you’ll be able to mange both with the Involver Audience Management Platform.

Go read the rest…

Here’s a photo of my first Facebook Places checkin, at Blu in New York City, what was yours?

#### Treats

* I was in New York City this week for Estee Lauder Digital Day, and while in New York I learned a few things — Blu is a horrible restaurant, I really want to try Angel’s Share in the winter, Virgin America is the only way to fly to JFK, and Matthew Dear is an amazing musician.

* There seems to be an increasing trend to heap responsibility onto my generation for fixing the world’s problems earlier then our predecessors were given a shot (it seems like 20 and 30 something leaders are beginning to become normal enough that people are wondering if they are better at effectively using power to improve the world we live in. I wonder if this is unique, or if this same cycle happened for other generations?  X? Boomers? Was there a similar push for you to start taking control/responsibility at 25-30?

* Swearing at the beginning or ending of a speech makes you more credible, dammit.  “Jazz” is apparently the best word to play in Hangman if you want to win. For more awesome tidbits like this, you should click here and follow me on Twitter, I’m @tylerwillis.

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.

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.

    Could answering beat out blogging?

    There’s a new “blog” I’ve just discovered and I’m a big fan of it — but you can’t subscribe to it in google reader, it’s only on Quora.

    I recently read an answer on Quora to the question, “what have been your most important life lessons?”  The author of this answer echoed a lesson I’d recently learned (namely that we often misread another person’s insecurity as signs they don’t like us, and this harms our ability to deepen relationships). He made his point in a compelling way and also added two ideas that I hadn’t considered. The author was  thoughtful and thought provoking across the board. I was really impressed with Jack Stahl and subscribed to his answers.

    Stahl’s answers on quora have been a pleasure to read, his content is fantastic. I enjoy them in the same way I enjoy my must-read/high priority blogs (like A VC, chris dixon, Venture Hacks and Both Sides of the Table). Interestingly, I don’t think Stahl has a blog, and even if he did, I’m not sure I would have a found it without Quora, unless he had invested in creating distribution. This got me thinking, maybe, when we look at Quora, we are looking at a pretty effective personal blogging platform.

    Generally, personal bloggers are people that want to share ideas, influence public opinion, get feedback on their thoughts, and earn reputation. In order to be a successful personal blogger, you must do two things really well:

    1. Create amazing content that make people better for reading it.
    2. Get that information in front of your target audience (generally, the people who can do something after being empowered by your content).

    Quora makes it easier to solve these issues for personal bloggers focused on consumer internet startups. The community there contains some of the most prolific investors, entrepreneurs, and thinkers who have shaped, and are still shaping, the way humans interact with the web. Those people are telling the service what questions they have, what questions they find interesting, and what answers they have to offer. That directly affects those two blogging musts:

    1. The site tells you what topics are worth tackling, by letting you know what thought-leaders and really smart people think are good questions. You are looking to answer questions with high activity and/or high number of followers.
    2. Answered questions get exposed in the feed to people following that topic, leading to distribution and exposure to new people you don’t have to build a relationship with prior to them engaging. Traditional blogging relies on SEO/SEM/Social/etc. (extra work from the author) to get people there.

    If Quora is able to repeat their success in attracting the best and brightest in new niche communities (their biggest challenge, but one they have successfully solved once), it could serve as the tool of choice for learning about new issues as well as demonstrating and sharing your expertise. It has some similarities to Twitter or Tumblr on this front, as it could be a great complement to hardcore blogging or complete replacement for lightweight blogging.

    Quora lets interesting people focus on creating answers and expressing their opinions, which is all I care about as a reader.

    That’s one reason I love Quora, why do you love quora? Answer that question here.

    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.