Tweetsmack: Northrop Grumman and Hitler’s Stealth Plane?

Northrop Grumman – Plenty of job opportunities and an odd desire to rebuild a German “stealth” fighter from WWII.

One of the biggest challenges that I often face is in convincing firms that they are – whether they like it or not – already being discussed online in the social media networks and that they at least have to be aware of what is taking place from a positive/proactive perspective.

To highlight this point, I have randomly selected a group of Fortune X00 companies (all of which will be highlighted in this series) and performed a 24-hour “keyword search” to track related tweets. These tweets are generally a mix of positive, negative, promotional or even humorous musings (“anybody from MyCorp want to get together for drinks after work?”).

I’ve started to refer to negative tweets as Tweetsmack – comments for which there is no corporate reply anticipated or delivered. I believe that they demonstrate that social media is worth tracking to help develop future communications and messaging strategies – strategies that engage this growing base of social networkers who are willing to openly discuss their thoughts in front of millions of fellow tweeters (who are often all too willing to virally re-tweet what they read without question).

I have high respect for all of these firms, and my intent is to educate, not criticize (I am not endorsing the tweets themselves). This current post features the notable defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and while they had plenty of positive coverage, there were also some not-so-kind posts and an interesting linkage to Hitler’s manic desire to dominate the airspace during the waning days of World War II:

Northrop Grumman

  • Tweets: 100+
  • Trend #1: Job or Employment Related Tweets 20+in the first 100 tweets alone
  • Trend #2: Positive News Related Tweets: 25+ (lots of tweets on positive awards)

Possible TweetSmack (negative coverage):


Odd TweetSmack (who really thinks Northrop designed their stealth technology from German WWII fighters?):

What do you think? Should major corporations merely ignore this type of chatter? Or should they monitor it to be aware of what is taking place and proactively use this type of open commentary to help shape their future marketing and communications strategies?

My vote? Monitor anything and everything. Those events that deserve a response will be abundantly clear.


Noteworthy: Cellphones tap the wisdom of crowds in Kenya

NewScientist — A Masai herdsman from Kisumu in Kenya, answers a call on his cellphone. After listening to the message, he repeats a short phrase in his Masai dialect. He then listens to another short message, and repeats the new phrase. After 30 minutes, he ends the call, having earned enough for a week’s worth of personal cellphone airtime.

[This article was originally published in Feb 09 by Anil Ananthaswamy, but having just come across it while researching the “Wisdom of Crowds” for an upcoming commentary, we found it an appropriate, and still relevant, post. It demonstrates not just crowd-sourcing and crowd-wisdom, but economic bartering – in the form of services for airtime for food. Enjoy, and let us know what you think!]

Read the complete article HERE at NewScientist.


Internet Micro-Payments for “Valued” Content? I don’t buy it.

Barry Diller has made billions off of the Internet. So when he said that all Internet content of value would be “paid” content within five years I thought I would agree. But I just can’t buy his idea of micro-payments for all types of valuable content (content = information). First off, I have to state that I’m damn impressed by the amount of money that Mr. Diller generates each and every minute on the Internet (his firm, IAC, uses around 30 sites, such as Ticketmaster,, Citysearch, and LendingTree, to generate over $1.5Billion a year). With that type of street cred, it’s hard to argue with him. And yet, I can’t help but disagree with his statements that “everything of any value” on the Internet would be fee-based within 5 years (you can read a good summary here on Jon Fine’s blog at BusinessWeek).

No, he isn’t wrong about his core statement – I agree that “most” valuable content will be fee-based. But I think he goes astray with his timeline (5 years) and the notion that micro-payments are going to be required for value-added Internet content.

Follow me with this (I’m taking a leap of faith here):

1. I do not believe that there is that much “valuable” content on the Internet today (as a % of total content). Sure, there is a tremendous amount of “interesting” content out there (ranging from news to blogs to information services), but not much of it is really “can’t live without” stuff – it lacks the research or analytical content/commentary to add value. A CNN (or any) news feed is of interest, but “analysis” of the news – what it really means to me, my family or my business – is of real value.

2. I think that much of the really valuable content on the Internet is already being paid for (interestingly, Barry’s $1.5B is not a particularly good example, and I don’t see consumers ever paying to use as it exists today). Look at sites like the Wall Street Journal ($1.99/month), or the litany of research and analytical/commentary sites that have successfully migrated their subscribers from “hardcopy” business models to “Internet subscription” business models. Even “interesting” information often comes with a price (in the form of advertisements). [There will always be some type of subsidized content at a reduced cost – look at the Fox News CableTV/Internet blend for a good example]

3. The Internet is overloaded with “not valuable” content, and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. As much as I like the extremely varied content available online, there is simply too much of it out there today, and much of it is repetitive news-based information that varies little from site to site (suppose 90% of all news is repeated on 90% of all sites with only about 10% added value). At some point, people will be more inclined to pay for content that they consider “quality” or reliable. [Before anybody jumps here, let me state that focused blogs and community sites like Wikipedia will continue to be one of the best no-pay values on the ‘Net]

4. Valued information and information applications will merge even further. To really make information valuable, you need to be able to apply it in an actionable manner, and that means having an application that makes the data usable (and re-usable). E-Trade, MotleyFool and are good examples here.

5. Micro-payments are like the Holy Grail (they are better in a Monty Python movie than in reality). There are many who argue that micro-payments (between 1 and 10 cents) are the next logical step, citing the 99 cent availability of music via sites like iTunes. However, payments at iTunes are essentially a restructuring of the purchase process for a CD, allowing the consumer to purchase individual pieces of the CD (#tracks * .99 = cost of full CD) – a model that I just don’t see translating to the news or journalism markets where people would micro-pay to read individual articles). Plus, the music that we purchase is tangible (we save it and listen to it over and over again, something you can’t always say about a reading a news story).

So what is the answer?

Valuable content is already being paid for today, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. We might find that the price we are willing to pay is a good bit lower than sites would like to charge (and those sites that cannot live with that fact won’t live long). But I don’t think that micro-payments (which will continue to evolve and be a part of future payment systems, especially for tangible goods like music) are the ultimate answer or even necessary at this point. Rather, I believe that low-cost “micro” subscriptions will likely be the rule for most “non-music/video/commodity” content. I would even rank low-cost multi-site or limited-view subscriptions as more likely than micro-payments.

So Barry, you are right, most of the “valued” content on the Internet will be paid for. We just won’t have to wait 5 years and I don’t think that micro-payments will beat out micro-subscriptions for this type of content.


Kaki King rocks “Pink Noise” (TED video)

Kaki King is one of the finest guitarists alive. Her performances, like this video from TED2008, embrace both a talent and a style that goes beyond music into the realm of art.

Sometimes you listen to an artist and you like what you hear. Kaki is one of those artists.
Other times, you watch an artist and you like what you see. Kaki is one of those artists too.
Her performance here, taped at TED in March of 2008, is as innovative as it is impressive – as is her explanation why every moment is the most important moment ever. You may not like her style (I do), but you have to admit she plays the entire guitar to its limit.

This particular set alternates between a brash, melodic cacophonous sound and a mixture of off-beat rhythms. Enjoy.


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Scoble and an RC Helicopter

Robert Scoble kicked off his new web endeavor (Building 43) this week, including a great interview with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook. But as I watched, there were a few questions that kept leaping forward, such as “is that an RC helicopter in the background?”

First off, kudos to Robert Scoble for Building 43. Great idea, nice design – I like what I’ve seen so far. And the kick-off interview (see the video below – go to 7:12 for the RC) with Facebook’s founder is a very good, relevant choice (and let’s face it, Facebook has class, MySpace not so much). But as I listened to the interview, during which a very open and interactive social networking model is presented for blending personal and business interests (including a nice set of points on the importance of knowing who your friends know), there were a few questions that kept leaping forward.

  • Why, if information sharing is so important, do an increasing number of people opt for higher levels of privacy on their profiles?
  • Why do so many people NOT link their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts (sure, some may not know how, but I suspect many like to keep their “news blurps” separate from their “personal lives” which are separate from their “business lives” – in fact, I’ve even heard from more than a few friends that they wish there was an easy way to set up different security/privacy levels for sub-groups within their Facebook network to keep kids, parents and friends apart)?
  • Do you really want all your friends to know who you’ve been buying things from on Craig’s List? Do they really want to be socially graphed?

And, most importantly

  • Can Facebook really be the underlying glue, or platform, that binds the vast number of growing micro-social networks together?

So take a view – it’s an interview worth watching twice (just to follow the flying helicopter in the background).


Green IT: What 2 do with tons of legacy gear?

Nokia wants to plant a tree for every cell phone you recycle. No, I’m not kidding. They’ll even map the tree on Google Earth so you can, well, watch it, I suppose.

I get the Green IT movement. It makes total sense. Build products that have limited amounts of toxic components, are designed to be upgraded (rather than disposed of) and use less energy.

Unfortunately, that’s counter to one of the core philosophies of our consumer society – planned obsolescence, where we intentionally manufacture products that are designed to have a limited shelf-life (all the better to sell a new model next year).

It also ignores the fact that the pace of technological advancement is not slowing down – it’s getting faster, which appeals to our consumeristic nature since we know that what we buy today can be easily replaced when it gets “old” with a newer model that is smaller, faster, lighter and probably cheaper (and I’m the first to admit that I really enjoyed the day that I tossed aside my old MP3 player for a newer model that had more memory and was half the size).

So how do we effect change and move towards a more eco-friendly model that embraces global takeback (especially when we can’t even get everyone in my neighborhood to agree on whether or not recycling plastic and glass bottles is worth the effort)?

Personally, I don’t think legislative efforts by themselves are a good idea. I’m a much stronger supporter of industry “awareness” programs, recognizing that “green” does in fact sell to a growing consumer market. We also have to aggressively learn to re-use the existing equipment that we have already deployed. Continuing to toss “outdated yet functional” electronics into the scrap heap isn’t doing anybody, anywhere any good.

With that in mind, I came across the following video GREEN PLANET Episode 6: E-Waste: Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle (courtesy of TelecomTV). It does a great job of putting the task into perspective, as well as demonstrating some interesting steps that are being taken internationally to increase the recycling and reuse of “non-green” products already in the market (including Nokia’s “phones for trees” plan).

It also does a good job of demonstrating that electronics that you and I might consider to be obsolete might be considered incredibly valuable by somebody else. Perhaps they’ve never been able to afford one of their own (a common problem in developing nations), or perhaps they recognize the money that can be made by breaking down the unit and extracting/refining the materials for resale (Green IT and capitalism can work together).

Either way, this particular video caught my eye, and I thought it worthy of passing along.


Why I think T-Ball and Social Marketing are alike

Sometimes it’s about winning, and sometimes it’s just about learning how to play the game.

My 6 year old son started his foray into organized sports this year with T-Ball. There are 13 kids on a team and everybody bats every inning (they play three). For most of the players, it’s the first time they’ve ever worn a team uniform (my son’s team is the Raptors). For others, it’s the first time that they’ve ever really swung a bat, or tried to catch a ball in a glove. It’s a learning experience for all of them, and more than anything else it’s fun – even when all 13 of them converge on the ball at the same time.

I’m fortunate to be able to help coach the team. I can’t imagine not being there at first base to help teach them the basics of a game that I don’t even fully understand.

But even though we’re not playing competitively at this point (we don’t count runs or outs – that will start next year after they’ve learned the basics), that still doesn’t stop at least half the team asking me every game “how many runs do we have?” or “did we win today?”

And that’s where we take a leap into Social Marketing.

I had the chance to query two companies this past week about their plans for establishing an active online presence in the “social media/network” space (think everything from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn, etc.). Both of these firms are well-established with brand names that are known beyond their own industries (i.e., they are not small or in the startup phase), and both have competitors that are already moving into the social space.

Interestingly, neither of these firms are particularly active in social marketing today, but for very different reasons. One has dabbled a bit in the space, but said that they couldn’t find a single instance where they had made money off of their efforts. The other has yet to step into the space at all, saying that they don’t yet understand the market and, while they have several different plans, they don’t want to move on anything until they fully understand the market and can figure out which of their plans is the “best” approach to take.

That said, my response to both firms was pretty much the same: marketing into the social space today isn’t really about scoring sales, it’s about learning the game. If you don’t play today, you won’t be able to play tomorrow, and let’s face it, social networks, as a “target”, are still an emerging opportunity for most industries. I don’t think that anybody has solved the complete equation for how it will provide a consistently positive return on investment over the next couple of years – even the social network firms are struggling to solve the positive cash-flow issue themselves.

So at this point, the social space really isn’t about making money, it’s about learning and evolving and keeping pace with the rest of the universe.

Fortunately, the cost of being active in the social space today is relatively low, with the ROI being experience and consumer mind-share – two clear positives in my book. Taking it a step deeper, I can’t tell anybody that they will significantly grow their market share by actively marketing into (or participating in) social networking today. But I am fairly confident that those firms that don’t play today will have a difficult time playing tomorrow, and could very likely lose overall market-share by simply not keeping pace with their competitors in terms of generating positive market exposure in what is clearly one of the fastest growing “emerging” target markets.

So there you have it. T-Ball and marketing into social networks today. It’s that simple. Neither will guarantee that you score today, but both are a necessary, and potentially fun, learning step to playing the game right tomorrow.


10 Great/Funny/Odd Celebrity Tweets

I guess the first rule of social media is that you are going to occasionally post things that just don’t make sense to the rest of the world. Here are 10 of my favorite [and unedited] celebrity posts pulled from a recent online search.

1. Shaq O’Neal @THE_REAL_SHAQ – May 24th from TwitterBerry
“The san diego wildlife parks sucks, u pay all this money and u cnt evn see the dam animals, Lions , tigers, and bears no way Uaaaw gag …”

2. Jimmy Fallon – @jimmyfallon – May 19th from Tweetie
“It still works. I just slice my fingers open everytime I enlarge something.”

3. John Mayer – @johncmayer – May 21st from TwitterBerry

4. John Mayer – @johncmayer – May 21st from TwitterBerry
[sent immediately after #3] “Just realized I’ve been sending tweets from my pants. In related news, I am naming my penis $oku.”

5. Lance Armstrong – @lancearmstrong – May 28th from UberTwitter
“Hanging out in my hotel room listening to Elvis. Elvis Perkins that is.”

6. Tony Hawk – @tonyhawk – May 27th from web
“wow, and I just realized she took a picture of her pants and posted it. That’s the last time I leave my phone unattended next to her.”

7. Dave Mathews – @DaveJMatthews – May 21st from Twitterrific
“Originally ‘squirm’ was ‘skworm’ but then I wrote the lyrics and thought if I kept it ‘skworm’ people would think I couldn’t spell ‘squirm'”.

8. Dr. Drew – @drdrew – Apr 27th from TweetDeck
“BTW those who post complex questions…I can’t distill a year of treatment in to 140 characters. I wish I could. So sorry….”

9. Penn Jillette – @pennjillette – May 8th from web
“Flew next to Frank Luntz. He introduced himself as we landed. I screamed “F*** you, Frank” repeatedly. We got along great.”

10. David Gregory – @davidgregory – May 28th from web

“I’m at Princeton U for my wife’s 25th reunion and searching for Judge Sotomayor’s paper trail. I’ll probably find the beer tent first.”

John Mayer is by far my favorite. Got a favorite of yours or one that’s better?


Why Twitter Won’t Charge Users


If it doesn’t, it will likely cease to be. But they can’t charge YOU…

A short while back I wrote about why Twitter had to fundamentally shift its model in order to generate positive cash (not to mention ROI). This should be considered a flat-out given.

Over the past few days, there has been much talk about a couple of recent interviews where Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone have discussed some fairly unique ways that Twitter might make a buck or two (and you can’t begrudge them that). [check out TechCruch’s interview, the NYT’s Bits Blog, TechSassy’s commentary or just search Mashable for “Twitter to charge” for an amazing array of money-making options]

Unfortunately, one of my favorite mottos “Viral info can spread just like a virus – this is good. But beware the mutation of information.”, has proven once again to be all too true. There has been an extremely rapid and (unfairly) anti-Twitter backlash against these reports, such as (all real twits culled from the thousands that I got from a “twitter and “charging” search):

  • “what? Twitter is going to start charging? As if I’m gonna pay.”
  • “ok um wow….rumors that twitter is charging $ for making an account?”
  • “WTF!?!? what is this i hear about Twitter is gona start charging??? shit i stop useing twitter in a heartbeat?! :)”
  • “just found out that twitter is going to start charging you cats to post up your shit!!! Haha. im glad im not into this at alllllllllllll :)” [ironic how this guy is whacking Twitter posters with his own post…]

But before we all move to condemn Twitter, let’s take a look at some basic givens:

  1. Twitter is smart enough to realize that they have a valuable commodity in their growing number of users.
  2. Twitter is not foolish enough to try to charge rank-and-file users to tweet. It just won’t happen.
  3. Twitter is aware that cash has to come from sources that both have money and are willing to gain access to users. Millions of them.

So, just where will the money come from? Tossing aside all the talk of “reality TV” or some type of “Twitter-in-the-News” type of program (which might add some revenue, but not enough “ad” revenue to satisfy Twitter’s backers), the most likely source is from corporate-sponsored accounts (where corporations actually use Twitter for things like direct sales, marketing and customer support) or from expanded marketing of their API system. Why?

First, advertising (with open APIs) simply will not work. Unless they are willing to close the Twitter API’s down and stop all the Twitter tools out there from accessing Twitter – like my own fav TweetDeck , Tweeters will simply move to alternative interfaces (unless Twitter replicates ALL of these functions in-house ala Facebook). Sure, plenty of users still use the “web” interface, but the existing interface is underpowered and doesn’t do anything for mobile apps (which are lousy handling advertising anyway).

Second, Twitter has already started to tighten up its APIs and has every right to charge for access to “valuable” assets. Sure, this might mean less alternatives, but Twitter deserves to survive as more than just a $55M experiment.

Third, corporations already recognize the fact that they must play nice with social media networks if they want to have a chance to survive and thrive in the future. The challange here, of course, is in coming up with a definition of just who a “corporation” is – especially given the large number of user accounts that have already found a way to make money off of “marketwing” to other Twitter users.

Finally, I just don’t see a viable market for charging “power” users (ala LinkedIn, which relies much more heavily upon a professional user base). If they go that route, it will just make it easier for firms like Facebook or (I hate to say it) Google to replicate the model.

Ultimately, I may be wrong and way off base. But my guess is that all these “free” add-on applications will start to feel the financial crunch and corporations will be charged to create their own “Twitomains” on Twitter. And no, Twitter will not start charging rank-and-file users anytime soon.

analysis – innovation – execution