Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

What makes you unfollow someone? Six things stand out.

in: Communicate

winescowl.pngSocial networking for business is a two-edged sword: You have to keep track of many followers, but automating the process thwarts efforts to remain genuine. And yet we don’t spend enough time analyzing unfollow behavior. Here are the results of some informal surveys over the past few weeks.

How many people can we really follow?

How many people can we follow? Take a look at this excellent study by Huberman, Romero, and Wu. It shows that there’s an underlying hidden network of friends, and that the remaining follower/followee relationships are really just social courtesy.

If humans can normally handle around 150 social relationships then, as JP Rangaswami observes, tools like Twitter help push this limit up to perhaps 600 people.

Read more…

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Unclear on the concept of web

in: Communicate, Create

Just a quick one today.

websitemagazine.jpgI was at Web2Expo earlier this year, and Website Magazine (pictured below) was exhibiting. I find this tremendously confusing. I imagine the target market of people who like to read about the web on paper is roughly the same as the market of people whose assistants print their e-mail for them.

But what I find most curious is that web analytics provide so much better data on the effectiveness of advertising, it’s almost irresponsible to use print media to reach people. And since magazines usually make their money from print advertising and sponsorship, that’s got to be a losing game.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Self-branding: Your personal favicon

in: Communicate, Standing out

User interfaces are busy things. They’re cluttered with information, and designers have to reduce it down to its minimum to make things work properly. If I’m using chat, or Twitter, I have icons for everyone I interact with. And they’re the closest we get to a personal logo.

Consider Twitter:


I have only a few pixels to identify people. Many of these are surprisingly memorable: GigaOm, Laughingsquid, and others stand out nicely. The personal icon shows up elsewhere, too. Here’s the icon strip from my chat (names removed to protect the innocent.)


And there are “visitor log” tools like Mybloglog.


Unfortunately, I’m breaking my own rule: I have different photos for Mybloglog. It’s time for some brand cleanup. Here’s what I’m going to do:

  • Decide if I want a photo or a logo.
    • Folks like Om Malik, or Redmonk, or Laughingsquid are so closely associated with their brands that their logoes stand out well.
    • The other option is a photo. Given that I wind up having headshots in conference programmes (a constant reminder nobody’s paying me for my looks) and several loose associations (Rednod, Bitcurrent, Interop, Unconference, Bitnorth, whatever) rather than one allegiance, it probably makes sense to use a photo.
  • Use a close shot that’s visible, rather than a full portrait. Mitch Joel does this very well; it’s just forehead and glasses, but you know it’s Mitch in a second.
  • Pick a color scheme. Something that’s consistent with colors of Bitcurrent, Rednod, or whatever I’m most associated with. Hopefully this is also something that’s not taken (a red/green/blue/yellow square might look a little too much like Windows, for example.)
  • Reduce the number of colors in the image. This makes it easier to follow a color scheme, and has the added beneft of making resizing clearer.
  • Invest some time in sizing the image to target resolutions. Several of the sites out there auto-crop or resize the image you submit, so sending it in the right size results in much better image quality.
  • Claim the name. Figure out all of the sites that have an avatar/portrait, and make sure I’ve got the image.

Sean called this a Personal Favicon, and I think he’s right. The little 16×16 icon that appears in the address bar is a brand, reduced to its barest of bones.

I’m betting that a branded personal icon, particularly in microblogging circles, will become something trademarked and defensible that graphic designers add to their list of design deliverables for a startup. There will be a land grab, too: I’m not going to choose black and green, or blue and white, because those are pretty well known.

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Nailing that presentation: Have one idea

in: Communicate, Standing out

In conjunction with Bitcurrent, Syntenic, IDG, Flow Consulting and others, we’re helping to run a weekend-long conference in Montreal in September. It’s called Bitnorth. It’s an informal take on conferences, where the attendees are expected to provide much of the content.

One of the ways they participate is by delivering Short Bits, 10-minute long presentations on a topic they care about. This year’s general theme is The Other 99 Percent, and we’re looking at how technology has changed non-technologists’ lives.

Getting an idea across cleanly is always hard, and presenting is a challenge for many people. So for those folks presenting (and anyone else who cares abount communicating) I decided to try and summarize the process of creating and delivering a presentation. I’m constantly humbled by great presenters (and there are some links to noteworthy ones at the bottom of this entry.)

It boils down to knowing what your point is, and getting it across memorably.

Read more…

Monday, July 21st, 2008

The path less travelled by

in: Communicate, Create, Standing out, Startups

What can a bookstore teach Canadians about positioning their companies?

Marketing is increasingly about attention, and less about product.

Most competent people can build a competent product or service. But in today’s world of instant attention, it’s often more about how to succeed in the market than how to get the product right.


I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with Robin Axon, formerly of VenturesWest (and candidate for the coolest cyborg name of a VC ever.) We were chatting, as often happens among Canadian entrepreneurs, about The Canadian Ailment. Despite tremendous competence in product design, we never seem to make it North of the Border in the same way the US does. Even US bookstores, apparently, know this instinctively.  But more on that later; back to Robin.

He had a pretty clear theory about what ails us, which I’ll paraphrase (badly) here:

Canadians try to succeed with a product, but Americans succeed with a market strategy.

Read more…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Targeting and repetition

in: Communicate, Create, Standing out

The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission is trying to sell more wine.


This campaign does three things really well. If you’re trying to put together a marketing effort, you should:

  • Know the purpose of your marketing effort. A lot of times I have clients tell me, “we need to do some marketing.” They’re often surprised when I push back. But unless they know what outcome the marketing should have — and how to measure it — it’s a waste of time. The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission clearly wants to sell more wine, and can measure sales of wine that accompany beer purchases.
  • Know your target audience. This picture’s taken in the gigantic beer fridge. There’s no wine in this room. It’s where the men go to get cases of beer. Nagging reminders from housewives with facemasks and towels on their heads might be stereotypical, but their target market notices them.
  • Repetition, consistency, and simplicity. Every message is a variation on, “while you’re getting beer, bring some wine home for your wife.” There’s no way to mistake it. It’s something even a beer-obsessed weekender can grasp.

When it comes to beer, nothing beats Nova Scotia brewery Alexander Keith’s focus. They even have a bar (the Lower Deck, the “official home” of Keith’s.) Revel in these gems where a mad Scot channels Mike Meyers, some of my favorite ads of all time.

Spilly Talker

Label Peeler

Who’s With Me?

Beer Eulogy

Beautiful. “Often, I’d dreamt of a lake of beer. But not like this. Never like this.”

BTW, the actor who played this Scotsman was arrested on charges of child pornography, and Keiths has since pulled them. Sick bastard, but the ads are no less funny.

Next Page »« Previous Page