Sunday, October 26, 2008

Image of Heaven is Found on eXtension Tag Cloud!

I was amazed. Its the kind of thing you only read about in the tabloids. Was an image of Heaven really displayed in one of the eXtension tag clouds? Could this be real? A sign? What could it mean?

It was during a meeting on Friday morning. There was nothing special about this particular meeting. We were discussing online marketing and looking at the eXtension Ask an Expert widget. Then Latosca (our new web coordinator) noticed something odd... did the outline of the general eXtension tag cloud present the image of heaven?

Was this another miracle? Just like the images of Christ or the Mother Mary on window panes or within cut-up vegetables? I wasn't sure what to make of it, so I leave it to you to make your own judgement.

Below is an image of the Tag Cloud.

Now you may have to squint just a little bit, but if you look closely, you will see an image of Heaven... look closely.

Branding through Conversations

Kevin Gamble via friendfeed pointed me to David Cushman's paper titled Communities of Purpose are the Business Units of the Future. It was an interesting paper, but I was more interested in a referenced post by David, The Value of a Brand is in its Conversations.

I'm very interested in this topic as we consider the future of our own institutional web site, its role in strategic marketing and how we can better engage our clientele.

In addition to the physical attributes, a brand can represent the values and personality of a company or service. The key objective is to create a relationship of trust (Wikipedia).

In his post, David describes the Zappo's CEO's use of twitter.

Tony doesn't just tweet about zappo promotions, he reveals his life and his personality to you in every tweet. He presents a very human face of a company - and he does it in a way that is open to real live human conversation.

If we really want to make an impact online, reach new audiences, and enhance our brand, then we need to participate in these online communities and conversations.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Learning How to Filter...

Photo by Kyle May on Flickr When I was about 10 years old, I started to take an interest in driving. I was ready to hit the road. Watching my mother drive, I was amazed at how she managed to keep track of everything around her, stay on the road, read all the signs, including the car gauges such as the all important speedometer. (Once I even tried to count the white road lines - impossible)

There was simply too much information for me to digest in real time... and when traffic was bad, forget it.

Years later, when I did get my chance behind the wheel; along with rules of the road, I learned how to ignore irrelevant activity and information (noise). When I began to teach my own children how to drive, I remember teaching them what to watch for... the small child playing on the curb as you drive by... basically what I felt was relevant when driving.

With all the resources online today, we hear a lot of complaints about information overload. I'm sure we have all felt overwhelmed at times, just as I did in my first driving lesson. Our challenge is to learn how to filter information.

If you think about it, we have been doing this all our lives. I was reminded of this fact when reading the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon.

Chapter 181. I see everything

if they are in the countryside, it might be

  1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
  2. There are some cows in the fields.
  3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
  4. There are some flowers in the grass.
  5. There is a village in the distance.

and I notice these things

  1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
  2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower, not a spire.
  3. There are ridges in the field, which means that in medieval times it was what is called a ridge and furrow filed and people who lived in the village would have a ridge each to do farming on.
  4. There is an old plastic bag from Asda in the hedge and a squashed Coca-Colo can with a small snail on it, and a long piece of orange string.

Remember the first time you visited a very large and busy city? Didn't you feel overwhelmed? In time, you became more comfortable with your environment. Why? Because you learned how to filter out the noise and pay attention to those things which are relevant to you. We do this every day.

The Internet with all its services, information and technology can be very overwhelming, but in time, you can become both comfortable and productive once you begin to filter information in a meaningful way. Of course this requires that you participate. You can't develop filters without participation. It also helps to have tools which assist you in this process.

For me, this is one of the real payoffs for social networking. Good social networking tools help me filter information with people who share my interests both personal and professionally.

Another challenge for those who are in the business of publishing information is to make our content "filter friendly". What are the best filter tools? We have always talked about being "Google friendly". And while that is a must, we also need to consider how to become filter friendly in many new enviroments where people work and play.

Photo by Kyle May

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Advertising in Singapore

I spoke with my daughter in Singapore this morning via Skype. It worked very well. I'm sure you will be happy to know she is happy and doing well... I know I am. :)

She showed me an image of the advertising on cigarettes being sold in Singapore. Evidently everyone smokes all the time in Singapore (not Emily, yeah). Not sure the advertising is working...

Amazing... buy our product, enjoy, relax... oh and yeah, it will kill you. OK, thanks.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Marketing, Engagement and Content

For years we have been learning about managing content and how to build effective websites.  Or at least we thought we were.  Actually, we have learned a lot, but the landscape keeps changing and we find ourselves using old and ineffective strategies.

I think we need to consider separating the following elements of an online presence as we develop strategies for implementation.

1. Content.  I would suggest that content is comprised of educational units - FAQ, procedures, research findings, supporting data, reports ... - information relevant to our audience.

2. Context.  In the past, context was supported by site navigation.  This approach does not scale well, is hard to distribute, not very flexible nor very dynamic.  I'm beginning to believe content should be managed in a flatter structure, tagging would provide a more flexible and scalable approach for navigation and posting articles can tie together content (internal links) more effectively for context.  What's relevant and timely (context) and how do we support it (content).

3. Marketing.  Simply put, what are our campaigns?  What message is important now?  What services do we provide?  Marketing strategies should take advantage of context as well as our networks (thinking of Kevin's comment about "Page rank being the ultimate measure of online influence).  

4. Engagement.  How can we and how do we want to engage our audience?  Be selective.  Not every area should have feedback, nor does feedback necessarily provide effective engagement.  Keep in mind that web 2.0 is more than just giving your audience voice... it should be about employing that voice to increase the value of your services.  Also, engagement should be about people and trust.  

The challenge is to define an approach for connecting these four elements into a coherent and sustainable model.  

Who is doing this right?


Phone Call for Mr. Davenport

On Saturday, my wife and I headed down south to do some shopping... when she suddenly realized she had left a sweater which she wanted to return (part of shopping I'm told).  Seeing an opportunity, I turned left to work my way back to our home through uncharted territory.  How fun.

We came through Kelly Iowa... a very small town just south of Ames.  One street... a post office (which I'm not sure was open) and right there on the side of the road... a phone booth.  A phone booth?  No way.  

Way.  But that's not all... a working phone booth.  Sweet.  

Why was I so excited?  Certainly my wife didn't understand when I pulled the car over, jump out, tested the phone and had her take my picture. :)

I guess it is the same feeling I get when I put a 40 year old album on my record player... good times.  If only I had my superman outfit.

Now where did I put my old 8 Track player.