While we're on the topic of cool marketing emails, here's an interesting one I got today from LinkedIn:
It plays right into the mindset of their most engaged users—many of whom have gone to great lengths to be visible on LinkedIn. And it's enough of a pat on the back that the most egotistical recipients will post it on their blog, generating free buzz.
Well played, LinkedIn. Well played.
I just received the greatest marketing email ever. I mean that in a non-sardonic way, too—I get a lot of marketing emails, and this is not only the best one I've ever seen, but quite likely the greatest one ever.
Here's the entire email:
There's no way you've gotten a better marketing email than this. But if you think you have, please tell me.
The 2012 presidential election is done, as of a few minutes ago. Take a deep breath, and rest assured that, no matter which candidate you supported, you'll eventually get your Facebook feed back from the insanity of political posts.
Out of curiosity, I took a screen capture of my Facebook feed this evening, covering about an hour of election results coming in (and including when Obama was announced as the projected winner). I highlighted the political posts in green. If there was any doubt, rest assured that social media has a killer app in politics...
My wife and I have been watching through old seasons of House lately. If you've never watched it, you should. Add it to your Netflix.
Part of why I like the show is how much I secretly relate to House. I'm not sure why—I'm not addicted to painkillers, I'm not a medical genius, and I like to think I'm not a jerk—but for better or worse he reminds me at least a little bit of myself.
Which is why it makes sense that I'd take career advice from the good doctor. In one particular episode, Dr. Cuddy—the dean of medicine and House's boss—is under the weight of tremendous guilt. A handyman who had been fixing her roof ends up in the hospital; even with her oversight, he ends up losing a hand and thus his livelihood. House suggests that this guilt that Cuddy feels makes her a crappy doctor, but that it also makes her okay at what she does. The good part is right at the end:
House: "I know this wasn't just because it was your roof. Cuddy. You see the world as it is and you see the world as it could be. What you don't see is what everybody else sees: the giant, gaping chasm in-between."
Cuddy: "House, I'm not naive. I realize—"
House: "If you did, you never would have hired me. You're not happy unless things are just right. Which means two things: you're a good boss and you'll never be happy."
Encapsulated in House's aphorism is my career to date; if you're anything like me then it's yours too. Arrogance aside, I always find a way to be good at what I do, but I'm also never, ever satisfied. And this isn't one of those "my weaknesses are also strengths" things—it's a disease, a horrible crippling disease that consumes you (me) and won't let you (me) rest. I have this deep and abiding fear that I'll find unmitigated, unbelievable success and end up as the CEO of Microsoft—only to be ashamed of not being the CEO of Apple.
Let this be your reminder, like it is mine, to enjoy where you're at. Your job is probably awesome, and even if you have further career aspirations it's okay to be proud of what you've done so far.
By this point, everybody who wants to be in early-stage Google+ is in. Google is yet to open the floodgates to allow non-invited users to join, but they haven't capped the invites in a while and we've seen the user base skyrocket to over 20 million. The launch, so far, is a success.
And it's come with a strategy somewhat unheard of in web circles: humility.
Yeah, humility. Humility in the sense of not talking up the product as a game-changer. Not letting in people that want, more than anything, to get in. And not even claiming that it's a full-fledged Google offering yet.
I've put together seven bullets, each representing something that's surprised me about the G+ launch strategy—because each one represents Google being modest, and even bashful, about Google+ and it's future:
- They've given us a simple version. Reports are clear that Google+ is part of a much larger strategy, but they've been happy to roll out a simplified, half-baked version (feature set-wise). Integration with any and all of Google's other products seems like a no-brainer (I'm picturing native Android and Chrome integration, most of all, but products like Reader, Blogger, Docs, and News could all find a home in G+ too), but it simply hasn't been put in place yet.
- They're rolling it out in phases. Instead of opening the doors to everyone at once, like they did with Buzz, they (somewhat) carefully controlled the user base growth at the beginning. They said it was to make sure the hardware could scale, which I'm sure was true, but it's also possible that they were bracing for an unexpected backlash, like they got with Buzz's privacy issues. That didn't happen, but they were ready to lock down new signups if it did.
- They've made no assumptions. Speaking of Buzz, I think the biggest mistake with its launch was (1) assuming you wanted to use the service, and (2) assuming that you want to be connected with everyone in your address book. G+ doesn't make these assumptions; to the latter point, it's almost surprisingly that they'd made the friend-adding process so manual, but it's because they want the use to feel in control.
- They talk about it differently. Maybe the media's to blame for this one, but the talk around the launch of Google Wave made it sound like cancer had been cured during a manned landing on Mars under the umbrella of permanent world peace. Google's rhetoric around G+ has been decidedly modest: it's not about the future, it's about connecting people. And even today it's not positioned as a full-fledged Google product: the site still lists it as "The Google+ Project", as though it's still an experiment (hint: it's not).
- They're launching other features, but not tying them to Google+. The most compelling example of this is the +1 button, which up until now looked very stupid and ready for the deadpool. Google was okay with that appearance, though, because they could see its long-term purpose... and they weren't afraid of us not getting it for a while.
- They're asking for feedback. Down in the right-hand corner of Google+, at any given time, is the "send feedback" button. I've used it, and Google's daily code pushes seem to be reflecting the suggestions they're getting. On top of this, we're seeing unparalleled feedback from the Google+ team, via their own G+ profiles, and the transparency is very, very impressive. As an example, check out this post from a member of the Blogger team, about G+ integration.
- They caved on UX and design issues. For the first time ever (I'm guessing), a Google-created product has an interface with animation and shapes other than squares. It gives the vibe that they've conceded that UX is often just as important as functionality, but more importantly, that they've acknowledged that the customer comes first.
There's no question, from reports like this must-read piece by Wired, that Google has gone all-in with Google+ and believes it to be key to Google's continued success. And even a vanguard in the changing world of social media.
Just don't expect Google to admit it.
Photo by juhansonin, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Gamification in social media is obviously all the rage. It's awkwardly caught between being old and new: the concept has always been around and in play psychologically, but it's found new life now with a catchy name and the technology to make it common. It's The Italian Job of the social media world—it's a remake, but nobody knows that because we've all forgotten the original. 36-year-old Michael Caine and all.
And I, personally, learned a good real-life lesson about gamification from my two-year-old.
He's usually a good eater, but there are always exceptions. Sometimes it's a struggle to get a two-year-old to take just a few more bites, and you know they can't really subsist on a single bite of chicken and just the cherries picked out of fruit cocktail. And I've noticed, embedded in our frantic efforts to get our boy to eat even food we know he likes, that some sound gamification principles come into play. One in particular stands out:
Gamification is more powerful than incentivizing.
The first arrow in the Parental Tricks quiver is to incentivize finishing dinner. It's "If you _______, the you can ________", with the incentive usually being dessert and generally hinging on finishing or at least eating a prescribed number of bites.
This works, but not for long. The two-year-old in question generally doesn't finish all the food we give him, and if he's hesitant to even start then a few bites then eating it all is an unfathomable goal (especially when attention span enters the equation). You can see him mull over the incentive, but getting there is unrealistic.
The second trick, however, works much better, and my wife gets all the credit for coming up with it. She'll hold up a certain number of fingers (usually three), and with each successful full-size bite taken she puts down a finger. He gets to see a finger go down after each bite, and once all the fingers go down, he's done. It works well as he's able to see immediate feedback, and the larger goal is cut down into manageable chunks.
But here's the clincher—it works even when you take the incentive out.
It works to say, "If you take three more bites, you can have dessert," but it works just as well to say, "You need to take three more bites." The immediate feedback from seeing the fingers go down is all the boy needs. He's driven to get those fingers down.
And that's the takeaway, when it comes to gamification on the Web. It's not so much the nature of the incentive, as the gameplay itself that drives behavior. And I think that's what we so often forget.
We all know that gamification comes in all shapes and sizes, and there's no one silver bullet for how to best gamify behavior in every case (the gratuitous Bunchball chart is here). While it's the sites/apps that give points or badges that are getting the pub, often overlooked are some of the bigger and more successful takes on gamification. Twitter is perhaps the Web's most impactful example at the moment, with users scraping, scrambling, and desperately clawing for to get more points. Or rather, followers.
And what makes Twitter's gamification great is that the gameplay itself is what drives behavior—not incentives. There aren't any levels or ranks; there aren't any badges or trophies for getting more followers. Instead, the "gameplay" is a natural extension of the Twitter experience, and that's why it works so well. Nothing's contrived. Nothing's forced, to try to layer gamification over the top of a normal site experience.
Just like dinner with my two-year-old. Getting him to eat doesn't mean fancy incentives or tricks. It means emphasizing the gameplay aspect of a natural behavior.
Now if only I could apply it to bath time.
This falls into the category of all-time oversights. One of those things you should have seen coming a mile away. Think New Coke, but without the wasted millions.
I was sitting in a terrific @agencyside social media training session, with @michaeljbarber speaking. He was talking about social media listening tools—products that let you track mentions of your brand or topical keywords on line. He happened to point out Radian6, Alterian SM2, and Spiral 16 as examples. While familiar with the products, I'd never seen those three names all listed together, and I was struck by how Star-Trekky and similar to each other they were.
My mistake was tweeting about it.
And why was it a mistake? Because of course these guys are listening. It's their job. It's what they do. They provide the software that lets major brands all over the world track, measure, and respond to online conversations in real time. Of all the people in the world, the folks at these companies are listening. So while it shouldn't possibly have come as a surprise, it did when Radian6 hit me back.
So I backpedaled and begged forgiveness from the powers that be at Radian6 (which we use at work). But I couldn't get off that easy. Alterian then got into the mix, followed by a third tool that I hadn't even mentioned:
It was all in good fun, of course, and the net effect was nothing more than a good chuckle at my faux pas. It's a reminder that, no savvy we think we are, we all need a robotic secretary monitoring all of our outgoing communications to make sure we're not going to make idiots of ourselves. It's no wonder that the smart executives and athletes literally have someone approve their Tweets, so their career doesn't self-destruct on the hinges of a single tweet (cf. Rep. Weiner).
And if anybody was wondering if social listening tools work, by the way, I can vouch that they do.
A day later, and since writing this post, the last tool has weighed in. You can't hide, folks.
It's about time I got a blog rolling.
I've been involved in online marketing and digital media for years. After a couple stints with traditional ad agencies I ran the marketing for Lymabean.com, a web-based startup. Since then I've been involved full-time with the Web and digital agencies. I've written in a few other places; now I'm writing here.
Nobody likes an empty blog, so here's a few things I've written elsewhere to get started.
On Social Media Today:
- Social Media Marketing is All About Changing the Conversation
- In Online Marketing, Strategy is Still King
On the Terralever blog: