Moving on…

… to a new role at Microsoft. During my 4 years at Microsoft, first as the Belgian Consumer Marketing Manager for MSN and later as the Marcom Lead for MSN and Windows Live in EMEA, I’ve been experimenting with social media. Remember the Windows Live Sessions we did all over Europe (e.g. Brussels, London, …), inviting bloggers to events such as MIX, sponsoring and attending Barcamps or Girl Geek Dinners and bigger events such as Le Web for instance, the adventures with Steve and Hugh around the Blue Monster, speaking at events, getting the word out on ‘Bring The Love Back‘, engaging on blogs and twitter, etc… Although it was only a small part of my job (the main part was setting up online marketing campaigns), I’ve always been very passionate about it.

Since October 1st that has all changed. Since then I’ve started working in a new role as Digital Media Communications Manager for all Windows Consumer brands – PC, mobile and online – as well as MSN and Live Search in EMEA. I got to say, it’s like getting paid to do your hobby just like Steve seems to think about his job as well. And it’s also the reason why this blog has gone silent for a bit, as I’m still transitioning stuff from my old job to other people. Also our fiscal year started on July 1st so I got to get my new plans ready asap, expect more about that here soon.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for the moment I could tell you all this, wish me luck and if ever you have ideas on how you think I should run this… let me know in the comments.

Zune 3.0

Ever since I started using the 30G first generation Zune (yes that brown one) I’ve become quite fond of both the device and the software. And now you’ll probably say ‘sure, you work for Microsoft so that explains…’ etc. but I actually bought an iPod first (yes I already worked here). I’ve never been much of a fan of the navigation on the device, let alone of iTunes. Huge catalogue and all but I just don’t like it.

zunecard

Yesterday the Zune team released the 3rd generation of the Zune and I updated both my 1ste generation 30G Zune as well as the 2nd edition 8G Zune, which is the one I use most. And I got to say, seriously. I think the Zune software is worth installing even if you don’t have a Zune. The visualization is very nice, and especially (which is new in this release) how you can go into the MixView which shows similar artists (similar music or influenced by, …) and other Zune users that listened to this music. A nice mixture between recommendations from the music engine underneath as well as the social… hence the ‘Welcome to the social’ slogan for the Zune. Here’s what Wired had to say about MixView’s recommendation engine:

“Microsoft showed us a sneak preview of the Zune 3.0 software it plans to release on Sept. 16 with the latest generation of Zune devices, and what we saw made iTunes’ simple Genius feature look like a blast from digital music’s past. While iTunes serves up a text list of recommended songs within your library and from the iTunes store, adding to the more basic recommendations its MiniStore feature used to make, Zune reinvented the recommendation concept by collapsing artists, albums and fans into the same recommendation engine, more accurately mirroring the way people think about music.”

There’s just one thing missing though and that is  access to the Zune Marketplace. Since I live in Europe the only way for me to benefit from the all-you-can-eat monthly charge of $14.99 is to get a US credit card unfortunately. The new MixView makes me want that even more, since you obviously want to buy the music you’re discovering right away. So bring the Zune to Europe guys!

Building relationships

This is truly brilliant! Thanks Darryl for sharing, it’s probably the best take on brands building direct relationships with their customers ;) And I guess for all women who can relate to this… there’s always The Women of course.

Check it out.

Famous Jaffe

Last Friday I was invited by Famous to come to their annual BBQ at the Africa Museum in Brussels. They also had arranged for Joseph Jaffe to come and talk about The Conversation to the audience of marketers and advertisers. I had wanted to see Jaffe present again as last (and first) time I saw him was in November 2005 and it was good. Given the post about that presentation was only the second one I had ever written on a blog, it’s fair to say it was part of the reason that I got into blogging to begin with (just like reading “Naked Conversations” was another one). Another reason why I was interested to go was because it would be a good opportunity to finally meet face to face, after several conversations online.

And just like in 2005, Jaffe never seems to disappoint as a presenter. Reading his books always leave me somewhere in the middle, I like them because they’re well written but most of the content is not new to me so that makes them less interesting. But then again, I don’t belong to the core target audience for these books either. The marketers and advertisers invited by Famous do belong to that audience though and I really hope they will read the book. Since everyone received a free copy that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge :)

ConversationalMarketingConstruct

One of the slides that interested me most was the one above about “The Conversational Marketing Construct”. I thought it was an interesting exercise on defining the innovation process, and something we ought to use to check on our own progress with Bring The Love Back.

Overall, very good presentation and glad to finally meet Joseph in person. There were a lot of good statements being made during the presentation but since Clo captured most of them in her Twitter stream, I suggest you check that one out. My favorites:

… And this is my social security number and my bank account. Since you’re all marketing professionals I know you’ll be too lazy to use the data to get into contact with me anyway” (when showing his AMEX, bank account, etc details on his ‘who’s Jaffe’ slide)

Or this one…

It’s not enough to get your foot in the door. Consumers are now so powerful they would break it. They would have to ask you in.

Unusual unboxing

Like I needed more convincing to go and buy the Samsung Omnia right? Even though this video is created by Samsung, it is a refreshing approach to unboxing gadgets like we see so many times on the tech blogs. Job well done! Now tell me when and where I can get it, curious to see if it matches up to the Diamond.

Consumer terrorism

I was rather surprised just a few minutes ago while reading a blog post from fellow Belgian blogger Ine. The post is in Dutch so I’ll translate a bit for you. Ine talks about an email she received from the BDMA – association from Belgian Direct Marketers – about their new congress: “Revenge of the I”. The email has some of the almost standard mumbo-jumbo in there like ‘in ages of consumer empowerment, social networks…’ catch my drift? And that’s all fair to be frank, but then there’s this rather odd sentence saying (and it’s a translation, I’ll do the best to keep the original sentiment):

“During the congress we’ll deepdive into the current era of ‘consumer terrorism’ that is coming up with the rise of digital and social technologies such as blogs, social networks and email.”

Consumer terrorism?! No speakers have been announced yet but I expect to see people from the Computer Crime Unit and others to learn direct marketers how to deal with dangerous bloggers and Facebookers.

Although on a slightly different note, it reminded me of another marketing event/congress organized in Belgium: Customer First… or should I say Digital Marketing First, since that’s what they’ve changed the name to for this year’s event. What’s the idea behind that? Who decides these things? It’s like saying: forget about the customer, this event is about us against traditional advertising and stuff so we have to change the name here!”

In the meantime the Belgian marketing publications ‘MM’ and ‘Pub’ are still as they were 5 years ago, so are their websites (and yes it’s still forbidden to link to MM.be) so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised of all this Belgian Digital Marketers against Consumer Terrorism stuff anyway I guess…

True innovation

There are probably not a lot of words that get misinterpreted so many times as the word innovation. Anybody today who builds a friends list on their site, who releases an API, who created a ‘viral’ ….(you catch my drift) is innovating. Bullshit. Innovation refers to something that wasn’t done before and most of what happens on the web today is a copy of a copy… so hardly true innovation.

Why this statement? A few weeks ago I met for lunch with the founder of an independent financial services company. He and his marketing manager (who’s an ex-colleague) wanted to know more about whole this social media stuff and they knew I was kind of ‘active’ in that area so therefor the lunch. A quick initial check during lunch on what they knew and didn’t know didn’t take long. Flickr? Never heard of. Okay – get it.

To get the right idea of what needed to be done they then started to explain what their business was and how they saw their company move into the future. And to be honest, they explained me the most innovative business approach that I had heard for a while. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is but just take it from me that it was. Everything was there. It’s totally different from the typical business approach in that sector, it gave incredible power to their communities, they really let go of control, … Very cool. So what was missing? The right tools, techniques, services, etc to do so.

And then it hit me again. It’s not because people are on Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook and blogs that they’re necessarily innovative. On the contrary. If ever that is what an agency or a social media consultant comes to tell you then run away (fast). Don’t turn away though because someone hasn’t heard about Twitter. They still might be more innovative thinkers than the rest of us and you know what the coolest job of all is? Making sure you work with the right people and use the right toolset to translate that really innovative idea into reality. That’s what me thinks.

Oh and for the record, my friends at the independent financial services company is looking for someone to do exactly that.

A quick one on Twitter

I liked this quote from Tim O’Reilly on a post related to Micro-blogging and how that compares to ‘regular’ blogging. Now I didn’t find the post itself that interesting, but Tim’s comment certainly was (emphasis is mine):

“Also fascinating to see different tweeting behaviors evolve in real time. It’s like watching evolution in bacteria vs. mammals. For example, among the top twitterers, it’s pretty clear that many of them are simply following anyone who follows them, which drives their "popularity." But that makes clear that they aren’t actually following any of those people — the volume is just too great. So ironically, if you follow everyone, you follow no one. (Unless you "friend" them, and only really follow your friends.)

So you can see that there are three categories of twitterers: those who use it for its original purpose, by following and being followed by a small group of friends; those who use it for marketing, by broadcasting to many but following none; and those who recognize the asymmetry, and are followed by many, but follow fewer.”

More than with blogging or anything else so far, Twitter has been a lot about quantity for many people. Metrics that ‘matter’ are number of followers, number of tweets, … and I’ve always thought of that as rather ridiculous. I’m more interested in the ratio of friends vs. followers, the number of links clicked, (comes in bit.ly?), clicks compared to the number of followers, re-tweets, replies, other tweet referrals, … anyway a lot more than is measured today.

Engagement tracking

When I wrote about AideRSS for the first time about a year ago the company was only a couple of months old. Their slogan said best what it was they tried to do (and succeeded in quite well): Read what matters. AideRSS was built as a service that would help you overcome the struggle keeping up with your RSS feeds. Ideally you would upload your OPML (or add feeds manually) and you could then based on a few metrics skim feeds to only the most popular posts. On top of that it would allow you to create a new feed of that… basically mashing up feeds to make them more readable. I loved it instantaneously (as did Marshall Kirkpatrick apparently).

Not long before that post on AideRSS I had written about the lack of innovation at Technorati and where they were missing some opportunities. Today Technorati has made itself irrelevant: there are way better blogsearch engines out there (like Google’s) and their so-called Authority metric is ridiculous. Anyway – back to the point – the opportunities I called out for Technorati are still there and when I saw AideRSS for the first time I considered they could be the ones to deliver upon these opportunities. Interestingly enough, it looks more and more like it that they will. AideRSS isn’t just that ‘read what matters’ service anymore, it has grown into an engagement tracking service, measuring storytelling ROI as they call it. And that’s a great evolution. They’ve even gone beyond keeping their ranking method as they released a new site dedicated to that ‘Postrank’ and also developed a Google Reader extension for Firefox which I’ve been using for a short while now.

postrank

Hopefully they don’t stop there. When I look at the stats for my own feed, I can only notice that not all metrics are correct: too many comments counted, not enough delicious bookmarks counted, … so some finetuning is still in place. But it remains an overall solid service. And I’m pretty sure Melanie will pick up on this as well ;)

Finally I believe they should give access to the full metrics AideRSS gathers for each blog (delicious, comments, …) and not only the Postrank itself. Imagine that you want to build your own bloglist with the top ‘x’ blogs in category ‘y’ but unlike Mack Collier or Peter Kim  you don’t want to look up all this data manually to collect in XLS etc etc to make your weekly or monthly list. What if I could enter all the blogs I want to track against each other in AideRSS where they let you choose which metrics you want to track them with (only Technorati? or maybe subscribers as well?…) and have AideRSS build my list automatically based on the weight I defined for each metric? You define how often the list needs to be re-calculated. You create a widget for your and participating blogs. You create a weekly/monthly autoposting rhythm to your blog etc etc… Wouldn’t that be a compelling offer? And of course AideRSS can take the learnings for what happens in the backoffice because all of that.