Registration is easy, what about activation?

Something bugs me. Not a day goes by or new usage data (preferably in the form of an infographic) gets shared online about one of the favorite social media initiatives such as Facebook, Twitter, … you know the lot. Big data, big numbers most of the time. What I don’t get though is why we all seem to copy/paste most of that information on our own blogs without really trying to understand what the numbers tell us (and what they don’t tell us). Everybody who once worked in a PR related job knows that companies publish numbers in a way so they look good. They use absolute numbers when they are worth it, percentages when they don’t look good and so on and so forth. When I say visitors to this website using Android have doubled over the last week (+100%) that is sounds much better than if I were to say there are now 2 people using Android to visit this blog instead of one. You catch my drift, I would really like to see some more analysis on those numbers before publishing if that’s not too much too ask.

Something else bugs me even more. When making these ‘analysis’, infographics and what not, people are not comparing apples with apples. Nobody seems to find it a problem that we’re always comparing 500M Facebook users versus 145M Twitter users (and some even against the 300M Windows Live users). For Facebook that are registered users, and as such most likely unique users. For Twitter that are registered users, and most likely that means registered accounts – and not unique users. I’ve got one Facebook profile just like most people but do use 3 Twitter accounts (@crossthebreeze, @iblogmustang and @krishoet). For Windows Live however the 300M users mentioned are active users, active meaning that they’ve logged on to the service at least once during the last 30 days. You can discuss about whether that is a good measure for being active or not, the point I want to make is that although they’re all big numbers they all don’t really mean the same thing. And that makes it unfair to just compare them like they are in my point of view.

Especially the registered versus active users is something really important to think about. When promoting webservices such as the ones we’re talking about you can imagine that generating awareness is the first big task on the agenda just like any other company. But because they are webservices I presume once you get the attention needed, driving registrations is not the toughest part. Registering to an online service is easy, I’ve registered to hundreds of services by now but use only a percentage of those on a regular basis. Activating users/consumers is the toughest part. People show interest when the buzz is up, but what is it that you do to keep them interested? That’s a tough challenge, a challenge to which many services fail if you ask me.

And it’s not just webservices of course, same counts for apps etc. There’s a boatload of apps available for my phone apparently and still I find it hard to find a dozen decent ones to download on the device. So don’t just report on the big numers PR people give you, those don’t always mean much (at least not to me). And please compare numbers worth comparing, otherwise that makes no sense either.

There you go. Had to get that of my chest.

MSN.GR Meetup

I have to say, if I got to name what I like to do most in my job at Microsoft then it is stuff like this. Yesterday we had a meetup at the Microsoft office in Athens to with Greek bloggers to talk about the upcoming release of MSN.GR. Typically we will talk a bit about what it is that we have been working on over the last few weeks and months to then open it up the a discussion about what people think about it, what they like, what they don’t like or what might be missing in their opinion etc.

MSN.GR

And I can hear you say ‘portals are dead’ and ‘why do we need another portal’ but I genuinely believe there is a place and an audience for sites like this, and I also believe that with this concept of the more ‘social portal’ that we try to build (where there is a deep integration between the MSN content and the Windows Live sharing and communication services) we have a product that differentiates from the competition as well.

Valia, Giorgos & Thodoris

Obviously the part that interests me most of all is the discussion piece after showing the product. I quite enjoyed the discussion and I think some valid points were raised, all making for a pretty engaging conversation.

If there’s one thing that I didn’t like about this then it is the fact that I took quite a bit more photos than I uploaded to the Flickr set, but let’s just say my already poor photographic skills seemed to have let me down a bit yesterday ;) Oh and yeah, both Stefanos and myself tried to arrange for a Tweetup later that night but we didn’t get to eventually. Nevertheless, great time in Athens, hope I can be back soon. Thanks all for joining us – to be continued.

Blogger meetups

Little over a week ago, I was part of 2 blogger meetups I wanted to highlight here as well. The first meetup was in Stockholm during SIME and was co-hosted by Microsoft and SIME. We both agreed it would be a great idea to have some small side-event during one of the breaks, a dialogue between the bloggers present at the event, both from the audience and speakers. It was a bit unfortunate the only room available was a small cinema theatre, forcing it a little into an audience vs. stage setup but I enjoyed the meetup nevertheless and only wished we had more time. I was happy Thomas Crampton was willing to moderate the mini-event and that also Joi Ito and Dave Sifry agreed to participate, and of course that so many people turned up for it.

Untitled
Click on the image for the video, only part 1 available but will update once that changes.

I like the way Johan Ronnestam described it on his blog:

“Absolutely one of the better takeouts from this years SIME (so far) even though I think it could have been more of a meetup rather than a ‘listenup’.”

I think we had a great set of topics that we wanted to talk about with all the bloggers (personal vs corporate blogging, sponsored content, blogosphere dead or not, …) but we only got halfway through it. Definitely a format I will try to replicate at other events since most of the feedback was really positive. And Joi, thanks for the nice photo!

The day after we had a blogger meetup in London with the purpose to have a discussion around the new version of Windows Live that was announced the night before the meetup. I had organized the event in the Coach & Horses (Soho) which was a nice location for it, although some wifi improvements are in place ;) We had Ryan Gavin and Jeff Kunins over from the Windows Live team and Redmond to give a rundown of the new stuff which sparked quite a bit of discussion so that was quite fun as well.

WLMeetup

The photo above was taken during the dinner after the presentation, but as you can see the discussion is still pretty much ongoing. From left to right you see Scott Lovegrove, Chris Overd, Neville Hobson and Ryan Gavin. Also present were Paul Walsh, Robin Wauters, Pieter Dom and Jamie Tomson. Too bad not everyone who accepted made it to the evening, but we’re definitely going to organize evenings such as this one again on several different topics so hopefully they can join us next time. In case you are interested in joining discussions like this, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at kris [at] crossthebreeze [dot] com.

All new Windows Live

Last week we announced the all new Windows Live, updating some existing services and adding new ones. Windows Live is basically split up in 2 free rich web services (such as Hotmail, Skydrive, …) and also free downloadable software called Windows Live Essentials. The software has been in public beta for some weeks now, but last week we announced the full story including the web services part. To be totally clear, the web services will be rolled out soon, but here’s what they’ll look like.

Together with the folks from CommonCraft they made a little movie – in the known style – to explain it all a bit more.

winlivefilm

What it all means? It’s almost there, it looks good and I can finally talk about it :) I’ve been using the full set of services and clients for a while now I find it the best release (this on is called ‘wave 3’ internally) so far. Checking on the blogs after the announcement shows that most bloggers, reviewers, … seem to agree. So that’s even better. Hope you will all like it too, here are some quotes:

”My early reaction is surprisingly positive, and I can’t say that the two earlier Live Waves impressed me. Microsoft had the right concepts, but marginally executed on them. Wave 3 feels different and may follow the old axiom that Microsoft gets things right on the third version. The private beta was very fast—surprisingly so. Response was quicker than running desktop applications in Windows.” Joe Wilcox (Microsoft Watch)

“Microsoft’s software plus services strategy has clearly infiltrated Live.com as well as their approach with Office. Live.com users can now access a variety of online services like mail, calendar, photos, online storage, etc., as well as downloaded services that include a mail client, instant messaging, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, the Toolbar and other services. And now it’s also one big social network. The result is an impressive personal productivity suite that makes me almost wish I wasn’t solely a Mac user.” Michael Arrington (Techcrunch)

“This is Big. Overall, these new services represent a major upgrade to the online part of the Windows Live suite. Microsoft is clearly trying to challenge both Yahoo and Google with its new photo application, while the new profiles and groups tie all the Live services together into a very sophisticated social network.” Frederic Lardinois (ReadWriteWeb)

I hope you all take some time to check out what’s available already and check all of it once it’s out there. With the renewed services, more integrated approach, 25G of free storage, social network partner integration, … I really think it’s worth it.

I’m a PC

New job, new laptop. After a few weeks of comparing, reading reviews online, watching viral videos (about laptops of course), buying laptop magazines at airports, etc… I finally decided what to get 2 weeks ago what to get and using it since today. Since I’m traveling quite a bit and spending more time away from a desk than on my desk there were a few key features the new laptop needed to have – in short I wanted a powerful lightweight ultraportable with long battery life. I had my mind made up on the Dell XPS M1330 for a while since it got some good reviews but finally decided for this:

Main reason for picking the Dell would have been the price tag, which is more interesting compared to the Lenovo X300 but overall performance and former Lenovo experience made me choose the X300 eventually. And no, I didn’t take the lame Dell-Manila-Envelope ad into account :) Truth to be told, in case I had to pay for it myself, it would have been the Dell XPS M1330 without a doubt.

So now it’s all installed, it’s indeed incredibly lightweight, the main battery gives me +3 hours of juice (and ordered an extra battery which should double that) and last but not least with it’s 4Gb or RAM it’s ultrafast :) Here’s what I installed, programs I need to have on my PC (it runs Windows Vista):

Yeah, I’m a PC. And I’m actually married to a Mac so probably our kids will turn out to be hybrids I guess (although more chance to see them turn into Xboxes or something)… Let’s not go there :)

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.

Your friends always with you

My marketing colleagues in The Netherlands just launched a new campaign to promote the mobile version of Windows Live Messenger… and I like it a lot. The site is in Dutch so might be a bit hard to understand but you should still go take a look. Click “Geluid aan” (aka Sound on) on the main page and then choose between in browser of full screen play. Once you’ve done all that you get introduced to Mike chatting on mobile Messenger from the metro station. All of this is visualized pretty nifty, but what’s especially nice to it is that you can change between the 4 people participating (by clicking on their names in the status bar, botton left of the screen) while the story continues. Just go and check it out for yourself, kudos to Monique and the team.

overalbijjevrienden

Once I know who the agency was, I’ll update right here. The site was created by Red Urban Amsterdam.

Business as usual

It seems ages since I last opened up Live Writer last time. This is not because I stopped loving it, but because the blogging rhythm on this blog (and on I Blog Mustang) have been very slow lately. It seems like the only times I get to do some writing lately is when traveling. The last posts were all (or almost all) written on trains and planes.

While I see people writing about how Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, … or whatever other service has taken over from their blogging, that is actually not the case with me. I am indeed more active on Twitter than on this blog, but that is because of the short and instant nature of the service vs the time you need to spend writing blogposts. I do still dedicate the time I need to reading my RSS, luckily enough as I’m addicted to news – couldn’t do without.

In the meantime we’re working hard on releasing some new campaigns for Windows Live and MSN in Europe (more on these at Live In Europe) and we’re also gearing up in the planning for next year as our fiscal year starts at July 1st and not January 1st like with most companies.

For now, I’ll just try and write some more posts about things that I’ve been meaning to write now that I am on my way to Stockholm. Share your travel via Dopplr if you want ;)