Tag Archives: social media

What the Ebay Ruling Means to the Rest Of Us

This morning, Bloomberg news announced the following:

  • “EBay Inc., the world’s largest Internet auctioneer, was ordered to pay LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA 40 million euros ($63 million) over claims it didn’t do enough to stop the sale of counterfeit goods. LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods maker, claimed in the Paris lawsuit that EBay has a heightened responsibility to prevent fraud. The ruling also places limits on the online sales of LVMH perfumes.”

What does this mean for the rest of us playing around in New Media?

You are responsible for what your customers do on your site.

Ebay likely contended that by the open nature of its “international garage sale”, it could not possibly contend with every buyer and seller- every transaction that happened, to guard against knock-off merchandise traded as the real thing.  As an almost perfect marketplace, Ebay definitely always comes with the “Caveat Emptor” clause- Let The Buyer Beware- the buyers definitely have to understand, in setting prices they will pay, that is it likely the goods they are getting are not authentic- that’s part of the risk involved.   But regardless, Ebay lost its case for not doing enough to limit the traffic in counterfeit goods, and lost to the tune of $40 million euros- about $63 million dollars.

Clearly, this means things like Craigslist have to begin to take a closer look at the transactions on their site.  For the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and more, this may also mean that you could be held liable for things that happen on your site, even if you are not directly involved in the transaction.   I would be particularly concerned that the terms of service be updated with clauses waiving any and all liability for any transactions, personal or financial, facilitated through the site.  Any site connecting people to other people. goods or services is now potentially liable as a thrid party beneficiary to an illegal or immoral transaction, and I would be a bit nervous about the downstream implications of this ruling.

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Marketing Yourself and Your Project

Chris Penn has a great blog post about online marketing web strategy we should all read and take to heart.

In essence, Chris tells us that the product comes first, the advertising comes last.

Whether you intend to market yourself, your company, a product, a service- it doesn’t matter. The very first thing you need to concentrate on is the quality of the “widget” you want to market. If the “widget” isn’t the best it can be, if it isn’t worth remarking on, than no dog-and-pony show of marketing will make it any better than it is.

The Cheeseburger Doritos Fiasco

About a year or so ago, I wandered into the local supermarket, and there was a bag of snacks called Doritos Flavor X-14. You were supposed to buy them, try them, guess the flavor, and go online to tell Doritos more about the flavor- it was a very video-game like environment, and was pretty cool. I even liked the whole mystery flavor experiment. I bought this chips and tried the whole thing out, impressed by the marketing scheme as much as anything else.

The core problem here was that cheeseburger is a lousy flavor for Doritos or any chip. It ended up tasting more like a charcoal briquette with ketchup as anything else. No amount of cool marketing would make me go back and buy that chip again. You might say that they got me to buy one bag, and that was the end goal. However, if you have lost my trust by this weird marketing misstep, I am not coming back, and I may even be less inclined to buy your current products, which are just fine.

The bottom line here is that great marketing can never make up for a bad product. If you have a fantastic, remarkable product, you may want to market it to get it to a wider audience, but no amount of marketing will actually improve a lousy product- it will, at best, give you a modest return as you dupe people into believing you- but their loyalty and return visits won’t pan out for you. The word of mouth about you and your product will start to turn, and making up for that loss of trust will take much longer than waiting and marketing your product when it’s ready for prime time.

it’s really hard not to talk about the things that excite you. It’s next to impossible to keep some great innovations under wraps, because people are eager to be surprised and engaged, and if you have a great thing going, the word will travel quickly. As a business, you may need to identify influencers and the people who act as social nodes into a bigger community, but word of mouth will spread, if you have something worth discussing and mentioning.

So there’s no need to rush the publicity part of the program- wait until you have the underlying product in great shape, whether it’s yourself, your show, product, service or whatever- think it out beforehand and be ready.

Marketing before the product exists will only frustrate everyone, especially your future business partners and clients, so wait. Talk about your ideas with friends and colleagues to get initial feedback, but don’t open the social media and marketing flood gates until you are really ready. Marketing is the decorating or staging of a house to help it sell; It’ the window displays, the eye-catching moment of attention, that gives you permission to give someone more information. It’s important, but you don;t want that attention all the time, and certainly not before you are ready to go.

As my mom used to say about teens in low cut garments, complaining about getting too much of the wrong kind of attention: “Don’t market if you aren’t selling.” In the business context, this also means don’t market until you are actually ready to sell, and then don’t be surprised by the overwhelming positive response you receive.

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Social Media Valentine’s Day

I met my husband, Matt, as an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. When people ask how we met, I say I hit him over the head with a newspaper, but that’s only part of the story- the punch line of a romance that continues now for 24 years, although we’ve only been married for 15 of those.

Recently, I noticed someone on twitter, Keith Burtis, who does some terrific woodworking projects through Magic Woodworks. Matt loves working in his wood shop, and so the idea of finding someone in social media with similar interests to my husband seemed interesting. I started talking to Keith about maybe getting something he’s made for Matt for his upcoming birthday. Something special and different. Matt’s an obstetrician by day, but wood is his hobby and creative outlet, so finding something that speaks to that isn’t easy.

Keith made a really amazing footed bowl for Matt, signed and everything. It arrived in the mail, along with pictures of how it was made and the whole story behind it, and two beautiful wine corks, also in beautifully turned wood. I was so excited, I gave these to Matt yesterday as an early Valentine’s/Birthday present, happy to get something custom made for the love of my life, something beautiful, personal, and special. As a bonus, it turns out Keith is a custom cabinet maker himself during the day, the kind of guy Matt might really enjoy getting to know. Maybe they’ll get to play in their shops together sometime, like Norm and his crew on Old Yankee Workshop.

It also turns out timing is everything. Keith is looking to save a little money for something special for the love of his life as well. (Don’t want to spoil any secrets!) This project helps him finance his secret project, keeping the love and caring flowing.

Social Media can bring you surprising opportunities and possibilities. It may seem like it’s all fluff and coffee talk, but here’s one more small example of how a chance bit of chatter on twitter led to something a bit bigger and special for everyone involved, including those parts of the equation who are “offline” and not part of the grid we all cling to. It’s about creativity, mutual support and caring. It’s about community. And even if that’s all that it’s about, I feel like I win the game every day.

Sure, this is a story about finding a perfect gift for someone- a bespoke, custom made piece. It’s about finding a way to tell someone you love them. And it’s about creativity, possibilities, and dreams. But the most important part is that serendipity is a terrific muse, and all you have to do is listen for her song.

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New Media Sociology

The people attracted to social media come in many flavors.  People hope to gain a host of different experiences, from making friends, to tossing around ideas, to finding others who share similar experiences.  Unlike the real world, geography makes no difference, and often many surface issues like looks, disability or gender make little difference, either.

This makes figuring out community norms much more difficult.  In a geographic locality, one of the limitations on someone’s actions is based on proximity.  You may decide to ignore the fact that your neighbor never puts his trashcan back for three days after garbage day, because you like the guy personally, and have a lot invested in being good neighbors.  Online, the neighborhoods are often loosely defined, and often there is not as much forethought that goes into actions before they are taken.  Likewise, this also means people sometimes assume and read much more into actions than is necessary or wise, from time to time.

For example, I sent someone an email the other day.  It was a post to a group, outlining some ideas I had.  One of the people in the group took this collection, and turned it into a substantive blog post, riffing on the ideas I set forth.  I had no idea how to respond to this.  Clearly, they had beaten me to the punch on the blog post about the topic at hand.  Fair’s fair, and the post was not “exactly” what I had written, but it was pretty clearly an expansion of the points I wrote about, almost point for point, in order.  Is this plagarism?  Is this just propogating new ideas to a wider community? I really am not sure, but I know it made me a little uncomfortable, especially since there was no real credit given.

It made me think we need to consider, at least every once in a while, what the community norms are for our different communities online.  No one is eager to come up with, or perpetuate a code of conduct, but we kinda have to figure out what the unspoken rules of the web are, if there are any.  Without some sort of guidelines or sense of what’s right and what’s not, we’re all just making this stuff up as we go along, and it’s hard to figure out what the proportionate response is to slights, intentional or alleged.

Questions I have include:

When should you take something personally, or should you always assume innocence?  Should you just email the person and ask for clarification if you aren’t sure?

When someone screws up or offends you, when do you let it pass, and when do you call them out on it?

When do you keep your feelings to yourself, and when do you express them?  When do you name names, and when do you speak to someone anonymously, hoping they take the hint?

When do we reasonably expect someone to have prior knowledge of us/our blog/our website, and when is assuming people “know who you are” actually hubris?

All of these questions deal with daily situations everyone encounters in social media.  For example, someone makes a comment on twitter you think is overly snarky or stupid.  Do you stop following them, or assume they are just having a bad day?  When do you ask them if they are ok and if you can help?  Likewise, when you are having a crap day, what is appropriate to share in your blog or through twittwr/pownce/jaiku, and what is off limits?  Family issues?  Personal issues?  friend issues? business issues?

I think these lines are different in every circumstance, in every case.  The answer to all of these questions (and I would love to hear yours) is probably “It depends.”

I just know there are days I wish I had a book that had lists of things like “one snarky comment on twitter = 1 or 2 sarcastic pointed twitters”.  Without such guidelines, and by knowing people on the wenb simultaneously fairly well and not at all, finding the “right” response often seems like guess work.  We’re all trying to develop our sense of what is right and what is normal, without the interpersonal responsibility boundaries that guide us in real life.  And somedays it’s tough to always know what is right and what is wrong.

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Trying to Keep Up- I need a New Media Guru

Every day, I find out about some new application or tool that’s going to “save me” in some way. Some of these tools are truly helpful, others are added to the pile of things I should look into, others I start to play with, but rapidly become overwhelmed with the learning curve. These new gizmos and programs are probably great, but the adoption time to put them into my workflow is too great, and I drop them long before I learn to really use and adapt them into my functional everyday toolbox.

At conferences, I check out the stickers on people’s laptops- it’s like looking at a NASCAR vehicle, visual clues about what tools the smartest people I know and respect might be using this week. Yet what I really need is some sort of database that not only tells me what tools are available, but cross compares features, and even gives a pro/con list to help me figure out what’s worth my time and what’s not. I know I’m missing key things in my toolbox. But the learning curve on what will work best for me is still kind of steep.

I’m thinking it might be fun to have a New Media Oracle- like the Oracle at Delphi who could see into the future and predict what you might need or what you should do. Someplace where you could put in some information about yourself, and what you wanted to do, and the Oracle would spit out the latest and greatest tools, sorted by cost/convenience/reviews and point me in the right direction. A Consumer Reports of New Media. SEO optimization makes Google pick the most popular stuff, not necessarily the best, for example, so this won’t work alone for what I’m thinking about.

My time is my most precious resource, and there’s only so much information I can assimilate at one time. I have decent tech skills, but hey, I spent years studying biology and law. That makes me great at understanding things like motivations and outcomes, neurological basis of behavior, but this doesn’t help me read XML like a native or really understand PHP or MySQL.

What kind of resources do you use to find out what other things are out there? Is it magazines or websites like Lifehacker? How do you find what will help you, and how long do you stick with it before reverting to your old ways?

How much of your work flow do you outsource?  How do you manage your time?

Inquiring Minds want to know!

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Thinking About a Year as a Podcamper

Podcamp Logo

Originally uploaded by Chris Brogan.

It’s been a little over a year since I attended the first Podcamp. Since that time, I’ve been to and spoke at Podcamp Toronto, helped organize and spoke at Podcamp NYC, attended Podcasters Across Borders, was the Lead Organizer for Podcamp Philly, and am currently helping to organize Podcamp Boston2 and Podcamp NYC 2.0. Clearly, I am a Podcamp Junkie.

Chris Brogan, along with Chris Penn, have asked some of us who have run our own Podcamps to think about where Podcamp might be going in the next year. So here’s my contribution, based on my experience.

What Podcamp Is About and the Secret Sauce

Podcamp is not just about audio podcasting or videoblogging. From the very first podcamp, sessions have not only dealt with technical issues surrounding media on the ‘net, but topics ranging from blogging to search engine optimization, to community building, to social media and where it’s heading.

Because of this, the name Podcamp is kind of a misnomer. While podcasters/videobloggers/new media makers are the focus audience, the use of the “tools of the trade”- blogs, audio and video media on the internet, are important to almost every business, educational institution, public relations person, and almost anyone with a presence on the internet. It’s not a conference solely for gearheads- it’s for anyone looking for a way to have their voice heard to a greater audience.

The Secret Sauce to the success of Podcamp is the people and the community. Unlike the Podcast and New Media Expo, Podcamp is more “educational” or academic – it’s about sharing knowledge about what’s happening on the bleeding edge of the internet, as communities form, grow and change. You can’t yet take a college course on new media or social media, but if you did, the finest professors in the Country could come out of our ranks.

I’ve always thought the beauty of Podcasting has been the ability to communicate with people all over the world, regardless of time zone- the communication is based on mutual interest and concern. I’ve gotten emails from listeners in Vancouver, Canada and South Africa; I see people from Germany and Japan and Norway downloading my podcast- what an amazing thing.

My podcast is about learning and learning disabilities, a niche topic that probably wouldn’t draw enough listeners in any one city to get anyone to take it seriously. But if you take the people who are interested, and expand it across the internet, you get audiences that do start to make sense. And instead of trying to find each person who might be interested, they find me, when they need the information I offer. That works for everyone, much better than traditional broadcast media like magazines and television or even terrestrial radio.

So my community is now global in scope, but focused around a particular niche interest.

The Problem Faced by Podshow and More Traditional Media Models

Advertisement tends to be based on getting someone motivated to do something- usually buy a product. Since podcasting is global, those products either have to be available on the web, or available locally in a bricks and mortar shop. Since we can’t predict where or when people will hear or see the ads on the ‘net, you can’t reasonably ensure a supply of Oreo Cakesters, for example, at the local store in Bombay India, making any ads for this pointless on a podcast.

The other thing to know about New Media enthusiasts is they are the Mavens and Connectors Malcolm Gladwell talks about in the Tipping Point. They are obsessed by specialized knowledge, they are willing to help just about anyone, and they seem to know EVERYONE, at least online.

If you interact the New Media people, they will spread the word- not only to everyone they interact with every day, but to everyone online. They’ll tag pictures and blog posts to make them easier to find on search engines. And they’ll also do a good job of telling a story about a brand and product- like a walking, vocal, enthusiastic (or dreadfully dangerous) Consumer Reports.

Podcamp’s Growing Pains

Podcamp started out with about 250 attendees. Podcamp NYC has been the biggest to date, with about 800 people attending, although Podcamp Boston 2 may surpass this figure. The largest challenge has been figuring out how a relatively intimate conversation scales up with larger crowds? Can it do so and maintain the sense of community and user participation?

Podcamp NYC seemed to do this successfully. By making tracks and adding in some predictability features, we tried to make the big crowd seem more like a family, and I think we succeeded on many levels. The same will be true for Podcamp Boston.

The things I’ve learned most from my multiple podcamp experience have been:

* The Power of Coffee and Donuts: people like to gather and talk while sharing food- it is a low impact way to start to get strangers to interact and meet each other.

*The Law of Null Space- one of the reasons why colleges and universities make a great setting for podcamps, is that the buildings are designed to allow for lounges and places where conversations naturally occur. Hotels and other venues don’t have this same sense of community space, making the natural flow of conversation harder to sustain. People want to sit and schmooze- if left alone in a hallway, they will migrate elsewhere, often remarking- “Wanna go grab a coffee somewhere?”

*The number of registrants will exceed the number of attendees. Because Podcamps are free to attend, often many more people sign up to attend than ever actually show up. This makes planning very difficult, since every t-shirt, swag item, printed schedule, and certainly any provided food costs the organizers and sponsors money. We have to look at how to address this problem. Is a small fee enough to help cover expenses and deter the “unserious”? Should Podcamp become more like a traditional conference, even if the speakers list is open to the community and the emphasis or culture is still on peer to peer interactions?

There are tons of tiny problems in organizing podcamps, ranging from finances, to finding and approaching sponsors in a way that fosters and nurtures relationships. I hope that the Podcamp Foundation may ultimately be able to help make this happen in a bit more of a cohesive fashion, as well as provide assistance to those that may want to organize a podcamp, big or small, in their own local communities.

One thing I know for sure. It’s ultimately not about the money, venue or gear, it’s about the people. The trick is going to be to figure out a good way to measure who is listening to what shows and why, and to find natural and sensible ways to help sponsors/advertisers/angels to help new media mavens, while new media mavens help them connect to a world of engaged and passionate people.

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