Three statements worth considering

If you're a curious person, you'll enjoy much of Paul Graham's essay on growth. For those less inclined to dig into lengthy text, here are three killer statements I continue to ponder:

  1. "Nine times out of ten, sitting around strategizing is just a form of procrastination."

  2. "Most fairly good ideas are adjacent to even better ones."

  3. [Regarding optimization for growth] "It's not that you don't think about the future, just that you think about it no more than necessary."

People use big words for one of two reasons:

1. Because they know what they're talking about and don't care if you do.

2. Because they're clueless and relying on your fear of conflict to escape with their pants on.

Three kinds of social business metrics

Here's a fun way of chatting through social business metrics for all you social types.

1. Vanity metrics

Facebook fans and Twitter followers are both vanity metrics. They're great in terms of seeing momentum in your brand awareness efforts. But you don't see total fans or followers listed on quarterly reports to stockholders because they don't directly contribute to real business value.

The fans or followers might contribute individually as customers but as social numbers they don't. People vs. proxies. You see?

2. Business health metrics

These are numbers you share with the big bosses when you're asking for more funding or asking to keep your job. For general marketing, they're sales, cost per new customer, etc. For the social side of a business, you hopefully have data from a large enough sample of your customer base to give some numbers around sentiment and how you stack up against competitors.

Cost-per-fan (or other vanity metric) can also find its way into this conversation if there's a remarkable decrease or uptick. Let's pretend you're working for a financial firm and only paying $.35 to pick up new Facebook fans. Somebody loves you way, way more than the rest of the category. Report that!

3. Product decision metrics

This is where social media platforms should be working a lot harder than most businesses allow them to. You've got a horde of people with some level of brand familiarity hanging around to click on your links.

Why not see how they respond to new product options? Why not tag them and watch how they behave on your website? Why not give them an incentive to give you full access to their Facebook data so you can extract some real insights from their aggregate behaviors?

Start thinking that way and you'll end up with actionable insights that inform product choices far beyond what your call center teams currently log from complaints.

Mad props to Tom Tunguz for sharing the framework.

3 things marketers should steal from Master Chief

The Halo 4 team is killing it with their pre-launch web series. Have a look at this clip and if you get bored, read on for the take-aways.

If you're unfamiliar with Halo, it's a game that puts you in a world with a bunch of weapons and a bunch of creatures that want to kill you. There are sequences that move the story along but in the past they've mostly been space between the action.

This time, they did a few things I think every marketer working on a Superbowl spot or product launch should mimic. I'll keep it short as I assume you're brilliant:

1. Build shareable expectations with a serialized prequel

Every Friday another segment is released through which viewers learn a bit more about the world of Halo. From an earned marketing perspective, they've created content their existing customers can share with friends.

If you can get your girlfriend to watch an episode and exclaim, "ooh, it's the girl from Narnia!" she'll probably think better of you brutalizing aliens via Master Chief (the character Halo made famous).

2. Start your digital media buy early

Halo has weeks to go until launch but they're everywhere online. They're not trying just to sell the game at launch. They want buzz. They want lines of people waiting outside Best Buy stores across the land. They want a global trending topic on Twitter without paying for it and they'll likely promote a "buy now" CTA against that topic.

If you had a Superbowl spot last year that generated significant buzz, your hardcore fans will be looking for your content early this year. Will you have your freshest storyline waiting for them when they search for it?

3. Connect everything

Every bit of the Halo 4 launch program I've seen connects with the rest in a web of influence that will eventually get me to buy the game. They've had years to learn and optimize. I'd hope a bunch of advertisers will at least get the basics of digital advertising right this Superbowl.

I know it's a lot to ask of broadcast specialists but if you can pull in a few digerati to help you implement all the connectivity basics, you'll be in a better spot. I'm talking about paid search that connects with video content and niche programs fueled with content so good it gets shared like crazy. And I'm talking about YouTube content that takes advantage of everything the platform offers (retargetting, in-video linking, publisher-launched ad units).

The list is long but the results are great. Master Chief will be so proud of you.

A brand on Pinterest is like an elephant on a bike

TL;DR - Pinterest is the latest in a long line of sharing systems, but not the final one. Better to focus resources on great content than on specific platforms.

In the beginning

Most people don't know this about Pinterest but in a few moments you'll be armed with knives of wisdom regarding social bookmarking. When the internet was slow and modems went screeetch screetch meep in the night, people saved and shared links to web pages. They called 'em bookmarks and group bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg grew quickly.

Then on the 6th day, God put Al Gore into a deep sleep and removed one of his ribs from which he made the internet you know today. It was fast which meant people could share images instead of links. He also made three trolls who were fruitful and multiplied until all the web forums smelled like Cheetos and disappointment. But I digress. The web was fast which meant people could share photos instead of links.

Social bookmarking grows up

Then along came Stumbleupon. The trolls graduated from college and moved from ebaumsworld and 9gag to Reddit. The fellahs all had sites but there wasn't really anything for the ladies until Pinterest came along. Sure, there was Kirtsy but nobody took it seriously because the founders were too focused on mimicking Digg which was already in palliative care. But Pinterest combined the lightweight content of Tumblr with the dashboard success of tools like Tweetdeck and it had photos! Lots and lots of photos!

The timing is right

Fax machines had recently died and administrative assistants and PR hacks around the world found themselves with a bit more time for dawdling just as Pinterest figured out how to keep their site from crashing. Soon the data geeks at websites that produce massive quantities of visual content began to see an uptick in traffic from Mashable published an article about how cool it was that Pinterest was pushing traffic to those sites but readers only saw "free traffic" and forgot the rest.

Brands on Pinterest today

That's how we ended up where we are today. Legal teams accustomed to servicing brands who never touched more than 10 pieces of content per year were suddenly asked for points of view on Pinterest and they screamed no!

Unfortunately, marketers twisted arms and kicked and screamed until they were awarded giant disclaimers and long lists of rules. They didn't take this as a sign of impending darkness and pressed on until they'd set up Pinterest pages and filled them with a smattering of articles, product shots, and office party photos.

Final word

Nobody follows your brand on Pinterest for the same reason they tend not to follow your brand on Twitter or fan your brand on Facebook without an incentive: You don't offer awesome content that is relevant to their lives or makes them feel good or makes them think.

Start offering great content on your .com and you won't need a page on Pinterest for your brand because Pinterest, and whatever replaces it, will quickly find your site and share it with the world.

How To Drive Digital Creativity Overnight

Hungry, Hungry Hipster

If you want to get things done right, you must first inspire the right people to get things done. Here are 5 approaches to doing just that. As a warning, none of them are easy, all of them work, and you're screwed if you don't change something so you might as well start here. I've also listed some resources at the end so you can start driving digital creativity immediately.

1. Promote your innovation process as a feature

Sell collaboration, iteration, and cheap mistakes from the start. Obliterate the mindset that "clients are stupid" and work to educate your clients as meaningful contributors to the creative process. Unless the clients are lazy, stupid, and hate you, this will improve the final product. Your clients are not lazy, stupid, or hateful.

A "client" is anybody who writes checks that affect your work life. You don't need to be at an agency to produce boring, outdated digital work.

2. Get the right developers involved early

The ones who build digital things every day have the best grasp of what's possible, what's innovative, and how to ship things quickly. They can add credibility to an idea by communicating to management that the idea can actually be built. Of course, not every great developer is a great communicator. In fact, most aren't. Instead of expecting developers to speak your language, take the initiative to learn theirs. They'll respect you for trying and happily correct you. Sometimes they'll laugh at you. But you knew this wouldn't be easy.

3. Embrace inexpensive mistakes

You don't avoid glaring mistakes by allowing more time for development. You avoid glaring mistakes by hiring people who know what they're doing. If you have the right team, you'll be able to move an idea into market quickly with must-have's and update with nice-to-have functionality as you learn more about your audience. And if you've sold your client or project lead on your innovation process, you're already assured they won't freak out when something breaks.

4. Encourage micro projects

If you want your digital teams to create things on the bleeding edge of innovation, you must first embrace non-client work as an investment. Encourage projects that explore new technologies as a way to learn on-the-fly. Stop acting like the time your developers spend on Hacker News is wasted. Instead, ask your developers to share what they're learning with your entire digital group and reward them. Google (client) has succeeded with this approach. Now do it yourself.

Further reading: The Google Way, In support of employee autonomy.

5. Learn to hate your comfort zone

Learn what your digital neighbors do and get your hands dirty building things, asking for help, and failing quickly. If you want to drive digital creativity you must first understand how all the parts work together. You don't need to be a guru, just learn enough so that you don't glaze over when somebody outside your silo talks during a meeting.

You'll avoid a lot of eye-rolling if you try to find answers yourself online before asking a developer. Most of the stuff you'll be learning at first has already been written about ad nauseum online. Google that stuff!

Here are some resources to help you get outside your comfort zone and start earning respect:

  1. Get started with some coding at Code School or jump into a Code Academy Exercise.
  2. Explore Sass and Coffeescript.
  3. Dig into user experience (UX), and Part 2.
  4. Get real with classic 37 Signals.
  5. Get smart about: Responsive web design, A/B testing, Intro to Git.

Thanks to Mark Newcomer, Dmitry Dragilev and Joshua Clanton for their input on this article.

The Emperor's New Website

I worked with Joshua Clanton to develop the site you're viewing right now. It might not matter to you that it lives on Heroku, runs on Ruby, and incorporates a custom type to serve up posts written in Markdown and uploaded using Git.

But you probably care that it loads really, really fast, is incredibly easy to read, and responds to the size of your browser window.

What's missing? Comments. Between Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Hacker News, and myriad other outlets, you have lots of places to share your perspective on the content you find here. What's even better is if you send me an email with your thoughts. Perhaps then we can write something new together.

Stay blessed!