Archive for “December, 2011”

Why businesses can no longer ignore social media listening…

As a reformed market research analyst delving into the unstructured world of social media – I often ask myself what is relevant and useful for our clients (noise versus signal)? How can we get through the murk and provide value in a way that impacts our clients’ brand perception and ultimately creates leads and more opportunities for business?

The truth is, for all this good stuff to happen—positive brand perception, customer loyalty and increased leads for business—companies cannot afford to ignore what is going on in social media beyond their owned channels. When I was a child, my mother often told me that there was a reason why I had one mouth and two ears and she said it was because there was more to gain from listening than talking all the time. I believe this applies even more so to companies with established or growing brands. Here are some reasons why social listening matters.

1. The power of word of mouth almost equals the power to express “social right”

Consumers not only have the power of the wallet but also have the power to express their “social right”—views of their experience with a brand on social channels that can build or break your brand. Granted, word of mouth may not be the same as a tweet or blog, but it has the ability to influence opinions and have a huge impact on a brand. According to an article on Social Media Today, 89% of people look online before making a purchase decision by reading reviews, tweets, chatting with friends online, searching discussion forums etc.

With foursquare check-ins being shared via Facebook, there’s an opportunity for cross-platform social influence. For instance, I have seen some status updates recently with negative comments referencing a certain coffee shop. Even though it may not have been in my list of coffee shops to go to, you can bet that I’ve got an opinion about it. If anyone asks me about coffee shops in the area, I might just respond with “I don’t know which one is best, but I have heard terrible things about xx”. If the coffee shop is listening to what people are saying about them on foursquare and other channels, they have an opportunity to redeem their brand by dealing with the complaints as they arise.

2. Social media use and engagement is growing tremendously

There are gazillion statistics on the growth of social media use in general, according to  Facebook, and Pingdom, one in nine people on Earth is on Facebook and people spend 700 billion minutes per month on the site  (which explains the chunks of time lost as I stare, in a trance, at tons of pictures and status updates from people I haven’t seen in over ten years). According to some stats on TechCrunch, Twitter is adding nearly 500,000 users a day, and an average of 190 million tweets occur per day on Twitter – you get the picture. Social media is here to stay and it’s no longer a matter of if it stays but how we are to respond to this growing and engaging new way of communicating. For a business to stay ahead or keep in step with its target market, it’s absolutely necessary that you listen and engage.

3. To gain insights and customer intelligence

There are some interesting actionable insights that companies can gain from listening to what people are saying about them. I have often found it quite useful for our clients to know what social media sites are for and against their brands, as this provides an opportunity to strategize and engage if necessary with their brand detractors and advocates.

A good example is Domino’s Pizza . A couple years ago there was a YouTube video set up by two of their employees that went viral and was a brutal disgrace to the brand. This definitely got the Domino’s management ears perked and they were not only ready to listen to their customers but also open to engaging with them so they re-launched their pizzas in a new campaign that integrated what their customers were saying. As a result of listening the company was able to make a complete turnaround for their brand. And they continue to listen…

The social media world is here to stay; your best bet is to get with the program and listen. As popular author Harvey Mackay says, “You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen—not just money, but respect.” Make the resolution to listen in 2012.

Here is a social media listening infographic from

Social Media Listening

Personal Information Online: How Much is Too Much?


Call Me, BroCreative Commons License

Charlie Sheen's Infamous Tweet

Have you ever posted something on Facebook or Twitter and felt immediate regret? Scrambling to delete something that truly cannot be undone? You’re not alone.

From Charlie Sheen tweeting his phone number, to Anthony Weiner tweeting a questionable private picture, down to the recent tweet from New York Times’ Brian Stelter leaking news of Christiane Amanpour departing as host of ABC’s “This Week.”

You know as well as I do that it’s not just the celebrities who have been getting themselves into social media hot water. I’ve seen people post the most ridiculous updates to their feeds, like the handful of Vancouver rioters posting Facebook updates bragging about the damage they’d done.  For a real head-shaker, type “I lost my phone” in your Facebook search bar and see how many people are publicly posting their contact details.

Facebook Privacy Fail

(No one was harmed during the faking of this FB status.)

Recently, a friend mistakenly tweeted his credit card number and expiry date. This happened because his tweets are delivered to his iPhone in the same format as text messages, so he thought he was sending an SMS. Interestingly, he noted a few new followers (within minutes), one of which was a self-proclaimed hacker according to his bio. Yikes!

I once saw someone post that social media was like a needy girlfriend: “Facebook asks me what I’m thinking, Twitter asks me what I’m doing and Foursquare asks me where I am.” It’s funny, but does sharing your likes, interests and whereabouts present you as an easy target to cyber criminals? A recent survey cited 15% of respondents admitting to posting their current location or travel plans, 34% their full birth date and 21% had posted their children’s names and one in five said they hadn’t used Facebook’s privacy controls.

Creative Commons License

SMG's Online Security Bad Habits

In 2010, Consumer Reports estimated that cybercrime cost American consumers $4.5 billion over two years. A few things to keep in mind when it comes to protecting yourself:

  • Don’t use your full birth date in your profile (Or, if you do – utilize privacy settings to make sure it’s only available to those you want to see it)
  • Utilize privacy controls (This applies to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, whatever network you’re using)
  • Post your child’s name in a caption
  • Don’t broadcast you’ll be out of town (Unless following it up with ‘And _______ is taking care of my place!’)
  • Leverage Facebook Lists to control who sees what and when. I like to use them for industry-specific posts to avoid my mom replying with “What’s a Foursquare?”
  • Do a good ol’ Facebook friend clean-up. With 23% of Facebook users admitting they didn’t know some of their “friends” well enough to feel completely comfortable about their own or their family’s security or safety and 6% admitting to having a friend who made them uneasy about those things, this is a commonsense way to protect yourself.
  • Use a strong password

Let’s talk about passwords for a minute. Is yours painfully obvious? Does it include the name of your partner, child or pet? If so, give yourself a shake! You likely don’t use your birth date as your banking PIN, so why do it online? According to Consumer Reports, 75% of Americans don’t use the strongest kind of passwords for their most sensitive accounts. Here’s some more food for thought: 32% of respondents used a personal reference in their passwords, 29% store passwords on a list they carry with them, near their computer, or in an insecure file on their tablet or mobile device and almost 20% used the same password for more than five accounts.

Password 101: Strong passwords should contain at least eight characters and have a combination of upper and lowercase letters, a numeral and a special character.

The inadvertent posting of non-sensitive personal information may seem innocent but there is a dark side to sharing your interests, location, and even favourite local pub. Studies have shown that we’re not choosing the best passwords, and the likes of Charlie Sheen, Anthony Weiner and New York Times’ Brian Stelter have proven anyone can make a bad social media move.

Millions of people worldwide are constantly sharing personal and private information with friends (and strangers) on social networks. Think before you tweet and be smart about what you’re sharing.

Top 9 Social Media Predictions and Trends for 2012

As 2011 winds down and we prepare to kick off 2012, many digital soothsayers have peered into their crystal balls to predict the coming year in social media. We’ve searched far and wide to find what they have to say.

I used to curate and organize the findings.

Get the Scoop

Of the Scooped predictions and trends, here are my top 9 picks.

1. Content Marketing: Brands = Publishers.
2012 will see many businesses become content marketers, if they’re not already. They will become publishers and distributors of their own original content.

According to Social Media Explorer, “2012 is the year content marketing hits the social media trends list and the mainstream, because content marketing is now a concept that executives can finally sink their teeth into”.

2. Convergence: It’s All Coming Together.
Convergence, in the technological sense, is the merging of different technological systems to merge toward performing similar tasks. In the year to come, social media will increasingly converge with everyday life, marketing, technology and data.

As David Armano points out in his post on the Harvard Business Review, “trans-media” experiences, such as Coke’s and Domino’s, will increasingly be used in “bringing together real opinions from real people pulled from a digital source and displayed in the real world”.

3. Measurement and ROI: How Are We Really Performing
Companies will need to become better at measuring social media activities to achieve more integrated marketing campaigns in 2012, according to a recent report on eMarketer.

Metrics will go beyond counting impressions, subscribers and followers to new ways of measuring prospect conversion and revenue generation.

The ability to effectively measure social media ROI will aslo become essential for many companies in the coming year. In Adam Metz’ report on, he says we can expect to see more social platforms and social media management systems that will offer the ability to assess and maximize ROI.

4. Mobile: Social Media On The Go
As Mart Prööm reports on DreamGrow, social media will be used more and more on mobile devices in 2012. In turn, mobile apps will become more social. This surge in mobile will require brands to ensure their content is mobile and tablet friendly.

5. Social Corporate Budgets: More Dollars Makes Sense
A recent study by StrongMail projects that corporate social media budgets will grow in 2012. To date, most companies have been focused on experimentation and pilot projects in social media. Expect to see much larger portions of corporate budgets devoted to social media in the coming year.

6. Gamification: Playing To Win
Social gaming will begin to influence people’s behavior in the real world in the coming year.

“Game-like qualities are emerging within a number of social apps in your browser or mobile device. From levels, to leaderboards, to badges or points, rewards for participation abound. It’s likely that the trend will have to evolve given how [much] competition for our time and attention this gaming creates,” according to Armano in his post on Harvard Business Review.

7. Integration: Becoming Closely Knit
Companies will need to ramp up their efforts to integrate social media to into their corporate websites and email, especially where transactions occur. Coordinating messages and ensuring consistency across all social channels will be essential to a greater level of success in 2012.

In Angela Hausman’s post on Business 2 Community,  she states, “firms must move beyond simply adding share buttons on their email newsletters and print ads.  They need to fully integrate efforts across platforms, media, and functional groups”.

8. Influence: Who’s Who in Social Media
In 2012, brands will place greater emphasis on identifying who truly has influence within their markets, according to Social Media Explorer. The race among influence measurement platforms, such as Klout, Kred or PeerIndex, will continue as they strive to develop a system that will reward the top influencers in a given niche market.

9. Content Curation: Greater Than the Sum of All Parts
As businesses become publishers, it will make sense for them to curate the new and existing content related to their brands and their markets. Exclusively creating new content is demanding and daunting for many companies. Resorting to automation and aggregation results in a less than ideal user experience. Content curation can provide the best of both content creation and automation.

“Competitive advantage goes to companies who quickly figure out how to enable effective aggregation curation. Look for rapid innovation in this field’, as Beverly Macy puts it in her report on Huffington Post.

Take the Scoop that I created as an example: it exposed me to content that I might not otherwise have found and it gave me tools to organize and add value for end users.

Did I leave anything out? What do you think will be the top trends for social media in 2012?

Trudeau v. Kent, That's What I Call Negative Sentiment

Last week was a swashbuckling affair in Canada’s House of Commons.  Justin Trudeau (son of Canada’s favourite statesman, Pierre Elliot Trudeau) called fellow Minister of Parliament Peter Kent a “piece of shit” during Question Period.  The comment sparked some heated and sometimes hilarious discussion in social media, with the majority of the online world siding with Trudeau as reported by the National Post.

The comment was a publicity boon for Trudeau.  Trudeau was mentioned over 1000 times on December 15th, two days after the incident.  Mentions of Kent, who was already a hot topic of discussion after pulling Canada out of Kyoto during the climate talks in Durban, declined slightly.

Social media sentiment for Trudeau was twice as likely to be positive than negative, versus Kent whose sentiment ratio was the complete opposite.  Trudeau’s name calling seemed to only enhance his appeal, presumably amongst some of his 102,044 followers on Twitter.   Trudeau’s comments helped him acquire 1,759 followers since Dec 13, whereas Kent has added only two, bringing him a total of 1,238.

Positive support for Trudeau sounded like   “I like Justin Trudeau even more” or “Suddenly I really like Justin Trudeau”.   Comments about  Trudeau’s facial hair wasn’t nearly as positive, with people remarking that it looks “scandalous” and “offensive” and “Justin Trudeau’s new pirate persona seems to have gotten the better of him today.” “Or Justin Trudeau is my favourite of the Three Musketeers.”

Kent sentiment was predominantly negative as people voiced their agreement with Trudeau’s point of view.  Almost 40% of Kent discussion had little to do with Trudeau’s remarks, instead focusing on the government’s decision to withdraw Canada from the Kyoto Protocol with comments like ““#kyoto had the best intentions but would have killed the CDN economy. Congrats to Peter Kent for finally putting the kybosh on it. #cdnpoli” or “Harper’s lackey Peter Kent’s performance in withdrawing from Kyoto is totally abysmal.Canada continues its downward spiral to insignificance.”


2011: The Year of the Tablet

Tablets are everywhere. In 2011 they have taken the personal computing world by storm. These thin, power packed devices are portable and allow users to be online, access email, video chat, and play games while on the go, or while relaxing from the comforts of a cozy living room chair (or the iPad chair). These versatile tablets don’t always get used on its own, recently Neilson reported that tablets make great TV companions with 40% of owners stating they consistently use their device while watching television.

Overall tablets can create value or entertainment for almost anyone – especially students, business professionals, technologists, or even Grandma! This post is a summary of major events in 2011 related to tablets and some of my own opinions and experiences.

State of the Nation

The tablet craze started when Apple launched the first iPad back in April 2010. Analysts either thought the product would be a runaway success or an epic failure. I will admit that I was skeptical at first, but that all changed once I had an iPad to call my own (full disclosure – I love it).

Since the iPad launched competitors have feverishly played catch up to try to match or beat the iPads features, functionality, user experience, and content availability. Throughout the last year and half we have had winners, some delays, and a couple of losers.  Overall the iPad still reigns supreme with an estimated 68% of the total tablet market share. Maybe that will change with the recent introduction of the Kindle Fire…but more on that later.

Another important factoid is that tablets are cannibalizing the PC industry. Forbes is reporting that European PC shipments sunk 11.4% in 2011, mainly due to lower demand for netbooks – a product that tablet functionality almost directly replaces.

It’s Not Just for Fun Anymore

Tablets are great gaming devices, so it is not surprising that ComScore says that 2/3 of tablet users play games on them at least once a month with 1/4 of users stating they play games once a day. I definitely sit somewhere in the middle of those stats, as I routinely use mine for gaming, reading, watching videos, and staying connected to friends and family.

Besides gaming and multimedia content consumption, tablets are also conquering the workplace. A prime example is that airlines have replaced heavy and expensive pilot flight manuals with iPads. Not only does it save the pilot from lugging around pounds of paper, but it also allows them to quickly search. Schools are replacing an entire year’s worth of textbooks, Doctors are using a plethora of medical apps to create efficiencies and improve patient care. Welcome to the 21st century.

How to Decide which Tablet to Buy

With a plethora of tablet options deciding which one is right for you can be a daunting task. Of course fanboys are likely to stick with their designated brand regardless of the features, functionality, or more importantly limitations. This resource from Tablet PC Comparison provides a high level overview of a large majority of available tablets. And below I provide my opinion on the subject.

Operating System / Content

The tablet OS is one of the most important factors to consider in your tablet buying decision. Until recently tablet discussions typically involved the great debate between Android’s open-ended operating system, with a variety of different products versus Apple’s closed and content-rich iPad.

The iPad comes with iTunes, which provides users with an almost unlimited amount of apps and multimedia content for their device. Although the Android App market is getting bigger, especially in the tablet app department, there isn’t a single repository where users can rent movies, or download TV shows (legally).

Of course that all changed with the Kindle Fire, which runs a modified version of Android. It is rumoured that Amazon subsidizes the sale of each Kindle Fire device at a loss as they are banking on customers’ continually buying content from them for the life of the tablet. Stream revenue is much better than a one time purchase!

Now we are seeing conversations shift to a debate between the Kindle Fire and the iPad. Will the Fire truly be the first iPad killer? Time will soon tell. Sure, we could also see another drastic change in 2012 with the recent announcement of HP open sourcing the WebOS platform, but that’s a whole other story.


Although all tablets are unique in their own way, many of the industry leaders have very similar hardware specifications. Most devices currently come with a dual core processor, up to 1GB of RAM, and on average 16GB of total storage. Other features to note are camera specifications, BluetoothWiFi, 3G (cellular), and GPS functionalities. For example, the Kindle Fire is cheaper than many competitors, but it only includes 8GB of storage, and doesn’t have GPS, camera, Bluetooth, or a microphone. To most consumers hardware specifications are not always a big deal (see iPad buyers), but for others the hardware specs may be the primary factor in their decision.

Screen Size

This is one of the biggest factors that drive a tablet purchase decision, and it really is personal preference. The RIM Playbook and Amazon Kindle Fire both utilize a 7 inch screen, the Apple iPad has a 9.7 inch screen, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab is 10.1. I love the size of my iPad, but I totally see the value in a 7 inch screen when it comes to portability.


Including price in this list is an absolute must, since most tablet buyers appear to be very price elastic. This observation is based on consumer reaction to outstanding sales of the $199 Kindle Fire, the Hp TouchPad fire sale back in the summer, and more recently the RIM Playbook price drop.

What’s Next?

It’s a given that new tablets will continually become thinner, lighter, and more powerful. Besides that I think the two key areas that will decide the fate of the tablet landscape will be content and price.

Content will be a key deciding factor moving forward. Amazon is placing big bets on their Kindle Fire, and I am excited to see how it all pans out over the next six months. In terms of price, the Kindle Fire seems to be setting the bar for entry level tablets. Consumers are currently gobbling the device up in record numbers, and Apple is rumoured to be working on a smaller, cheaper ‘iPad Mini’ that would compete directly with smaller, cheaper competitor products. I’m excited for 2012 which will most definitely bring a few surprises in tablet land.

The Great Content Challenge

We all know we need it. We can recognize it. The challenge is to get it. To create that perfect intersection of relevance, “edutainment” value and authenticity that will make consumption of your content a satisfying experience. In other words, people out there in the universe will want to consume and share your content!

Why is it so difficult to create this type of content? Why is it so rare? Increasingly, good quality content is becoming a serious business asset that can generate eyeballs, click-throughs, and ultimately, leads for your business. It’s getting so this content piece is a “must have”, as opposed to a “nice to have”.

In my mind, there are three things that make good quality, shareable content really hard to create. Not to say there aren’t lots of challenges, but these are the stand-outs for me:

  1. It takes a lot of time and skill to produce. It always takes more time to produce great content than anybody thinks. Assuming that you go to the trouble to hire a great content producer in order to create something that is relevant, entertaining and authentic, that producer will have to properly understand your target audience, the value-add nugget of information you can provide to your audience, the sub-culture of your audience, your brand identity, voice, etc. You get the idea. We’re talking full creative brief, multiple revisions, identifying the right visual look if the content is graphical. Not to scare anyone off, but this can be a major project.
  2. It’s got to be short. Copywriting and word-crafting have never been more important skill sets than in today’s social media content world. Whole new disciplines are evolving around writing social media-friendly lines of copy that will generate interest and social activity, while keeping content short, easy to scan and easy to digest. This is really hard. Always. Full stop.
  3. Your content has to add value. You need to deliver the goods. You can thrill, inspire, inform and entertain—go ahead and indentify what will work best for you, but you need to add something to the equation. You need to thoroughly understand where you can add value, and how. And you likely need to understand the relationship between your target audience and your product, brand, service, company or topic. This is the intersection between the intrinsic skills of a creative team and the deep understanding of your audience that can come from research, twenty years in the business or shared life experiences. It almost doesn’t matter where it comes from, but that understanding is likely going to be there, if your content is resonating.

As someone who has always loved words, ideas and visuals (I was that yearbook editor in high school), I love that we’re here. I love that after all my years working with technology, we’re coming back to the age old skills of storytelling and connecting with your audience. But we do need to remind ourselves that writing, drawing, painting and crafting content has always been hard and producing the best of the best, will always be a messy, painstaking process. Just because we can publish it with a tap of a finger does not make the creation process any easier. Just because Seth Godin makes it look easy, doesn’t make it so.


What do you think? Am I missing something?


B2B vs B2C Social Media: Whither the ROI? (Webinar)

Tune in today at 12pm EST / 9am PST for a live webinar from Social Media Today – B2B vs. B2C Social Media: Whither the ROI?

Is social media going to pay its way or not? For most of Web 2.0’s lifetime, this has been a key question. Both B2B and B2C marketers wrestle with this question, and there are few examples of success.

Join Maggie Fox and fellow panelists, Paul Gillin and Sandy Carter, as they explore these urgent questions:

  • What can we learn from businesses like Apple that have figured out how to get people to part with their money by leveraging social channels?
  • Which platforms—LinkedInFacebook or Twitter (and now Google+)—provide the best ROI for B2B marketers?
  • How can companies leverage their internal thought-leaders for generating influence and, eventually, sales?
  • What barriers block marketers from converting people who use social platforms only for social reasons?
  • How do you measure the return on social investment in B2B? What are the best cases for its use?

Will definitely be a great discussion! To register now, click HERE!

Watching with Friends: The Rise of Social TV

As I work on this blog post, I’ve got a clear view of two screens – my laptop and the TV. This is a common occurrence at my house, and many others across North America. A majority of Americans are now commonly using TV and the Internet at the same time – Nielsen has reported that number as high as 60%, and there are plenty of reasons why. Some people are multitasking, scrolling through their reader or catching up on work while they watch. Some are complementing what they’re seeing on the TV with what they’re doing online—looking up that Law & Order: SVU guest star on IMDb or checking their fantasy football scores while they watch the game. But a significant number are incorporating social media into their TV use (myself included), and our numbers are growing.

The impact of social media on TV is significant. In an interview last year, media scholar Henry Jenkins theorized that social media is making people return to watching television in real time, a practice that’s been on the downward trend, thanks to the popularity of time-shifting technologies. Not only does real-time watching help viewers to avoid spoilers, it also allows them to talk about the shows their watching with others who are having the same experience. There’s a window of time after an episode airs when it’s still considered relevant and appropriate conversation for most people. This is especially true for what’s often called “event TV”—the Oscars, the Super Bowl, political debates or speeches—which lend themselves to in-the-moment chatting. Social TV means you’re watching with other people—even if those people are spread out all over your time zone or the world. For many people, talking about TV is one of the most enjoyable parts of watching it, and social media is making this easier than ever.

Popular Tools for Social TV Viewing

When it comes to talking about TV, a number of tools have emerged, looking to capitalize on the trend and provide social networks dedicated to TV or general media consumption.


GetGlue, launched in 2008, is the leader in the field. It allows users to check-in to the media they’re consuming, awarding them with virtual stickers. Once users have collected enough virtual stickers for the TV, music and movies they’re watching, they can have physical stickers mailed to them. GetGlue has also partnered with both Foursquare, for location-based check-ins, and DIRECTV, to allow users to check-in from their TV sets.


Miso hasn’t been around as long as GetGlue, having only launched in 2010, but does present some solid competition. Like GetGlue, it’s integrated with DirectTV, but unlike GetGlue, it focuses solely on TV. Also unlike GetGlue, they’re looking past check-ins to content, recognizing that gamification is only one reason for users to use social TV tools. With an eye on content as a long-term strategy, Miso may be poised to grow.


Tunerfish comes from Comcast, and bills itself as a “social discovery engine.” Despite providing a host of social gesture options and a promised robust recommendations tool, Tunerfish is lagging when compared with GetGlue and Miso. With relatively few users, the social network is suffering. After all, if your contacts aren’t there, what’s the point?


And let’s not forget Twitter. Plenty of viewers are turning to their existing networks for TV talk, and Twitter is my tool of choice. I can follow my favorite shows, their creators, and their stars, see what my existing network is saying or follow hashtags devoted to particular shows to get a broader view of what Twitter users are saying. This is working for me so far, but I wonder if I’m missing something by not using a tool like the ones described above.


Do you incorporate social media into your TV viewing? If I’m only using Twitter and not one of these other platforms, am I missing out?


SoundCloud and The Battle for Music-Based Social Network Supremacy

A Place for Music?

Although the MySpace of today looks as if it’s barely holding on by a thread, there was a time when it proudly wore the crown of social networks.

At its core was music, a key component in both its initial growth and the tail end of its usefulness. At the time, MySpace’s approach to music was incredibly innovative. They were one of the first web services to allow anyone making music, be it major, indie or an unsigned act, to upload their work to “the cloud” free of charge. Once uploaded, the music was streamable for audiences to enjoy.

This revolutionary approach to online music helped launched the careers of countless artists and forged new networks of friends connected through a shared fondness for a band or genre.

In fact, music played such an important role in the rise of MySpace that the site’s motto was simply “a place for music” for the better part of its glory days.

As the cons of using MySpace started to outweigh the pros, users began to naturally seek alternatives. Facebook offered a superior social experience and a mass migration soon followed. It’s a story we’re all familiar with, only there’s one thing missing. What happened to music on Facebook?

To be fair, Facebook hasn’t completely abandoned music. They’ve experimented with apps, artist pages and have recently started integrating services like Spotify and Rdio into profile timelines. It’s a nice start, but for the most part, it’s clear to any user that uploading and streaming music is not a significant part of the Facebook experience.

Enter The Void

Spotify, Rdio, SoundCloud, MOG, Turntable FM, Last FM and Ping are just a few of the new services currently looking to fill the online music void left behind by MySpace. While the theme of “listening to music” is common to all of these services, their methods of delivering the experience differs dramatically among one another.

Spotify, Rdio, and MOG rely on licensing deals to secure the rights to streaming content, Turntable FM requires similar rights yet adds an element of gamification, Last FM and Ping depend on capturing and sharing existing listening habits in an effort to pair like minded individuals based on similar taste.

Closely mirroring the model of MySpace, SoundCloud stands out from the pack by allowing any artist the ability to upload their music to the SoundCloud servers free of charge, the result being a clean, intuitive streamable audio portfolio of their work.


I was lucky enough to participate in Soundcloud’s beta program back when I was writing my music blog. Their dropbox feature was a new, superior alternative to email for accepting demos by the public. Now looking back on this early sign of ingenuity, it’s no wonder the service has gone on to grow at a staggering rate.

In a few short years, SoundCloud has grown to a network of over 8 Million users and now comes in a variety of mobile, tablet and desktop app flavours. Unlike services that depend on licensing deals to secure content, SoundCloud relies entirely on user-generated content, often leaving people to describe it as the “Flickr of Music”.
Like Flickr, SoundCloud’s wonderland of content offers an incredible experience to the listener. By simply following artists of interest, listeners are rewarded with an endless stream of free music including forthcoming releases, demos and rough takes.

Moving Forward

Looking past simply dominating the space of music, SoundCloud has recently expanded into the areas of podcasting and live recording. Possibly, the most interesting development is their recent interoperability venture with Tumblr. Through the partnership, artists are able to seamlessly embed SoundCloud content directly in to their Tumblr blogs, resulting in band pages eerily familiar to those of MySpace.

As we inch closer towards an age of streaming music libraries in the cloud, choosing a go-to service becomes increasingly murky when confronted with issues of copyright, licensing and delivery. I for one prefer the “open” model of SoundCloud, not simply because it’s free, but because its model helps put the control of content back in the hands of the artists.

A perfect example of this creative control is shown below. Taken from Matthew Dear’s forthcoming EP is the song Headcage. Uploaded by his label Ghostly International and made free to stream and download for all.


The Agile Agency: creating the best conditions for awesome

This infographic from the good folks at Gist resonated with me. It summarizes the notion of the Agile Business succinctly and lays it all out simply. It is very much worth a look. You see, we run an agile-inspired workflow here at SMG. It takes collaboration, communication and a great team. It also takes work.  I believe it is worth the effort because it creates the best conditions for success. Being an Agile Agency introduces some unique challenges and opportunities. Before I get to those, lets take a look at the infographic which gives a quick overview of what Agile is all about: (Click for the easier-to-read full-res version).


The Agile Business


I was first challenged to think about agile and how it applies to marketing and communications when I worked on the client-side at an internet services company. I witnessed the development team (and large chunks of the business related to the delivery of web services) transition from waterfall development to agile. It was a significant transition, but entirely worthwhile (and needed for the business).  Since the business was moving to agile, I was given the mandate to come up with an agile approach to running our communication and marketing team.

I struggled initially. The agile development work teams tackled one project or problem at a time in a scrum methodology. Our marketing communications team was a service to the business and typically ran over a dozen projects concurrently. Another challenge — we didn’t necessarily have control or influence over the prioritization of our work. For example, quarterly financial reporting had to happen at set times during the year. Product updates rolled out to meet the needs of the customers. Rarely did this happen on a schedule (or in a manner) that set optimal conditions for our team.

But my (incredible) team and I cracked it. We created a wiki-driven central nervous system where we actively documented, tracked and managed all “Active” projects; kept a prioritized “Next” queue of defined projects waiting to be resourced and kicked off; maintained a prioritized (and frequently changing) “Backlog” of projects and a dream list of “Someday Maybe” projects. I came to adore the flexibility, collaboration, communication, knowledge management, improved workflow, increased productivity, transparency, accountability and improved morale that accompanied our successful agile-influenced marketing and communication team.

When I joined SMG in 2009, I knew I wanted to be part of an Agile Agency. With Maggie’s support and collaboration, I became obsessed with creating workflow and defining the processes and supports needed to allow us to see the benefits that come from being an Agile Agency:

  • Accelerated time to market for our client campaigns, and quick starts for our programs (frequently large-scale campaigns and transformation initiatives)
  • Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities helped us roll with the fluidity of social media service delivery — the unpredictable nature of pilot programs and the discoveries that come when we co-innovate with clients
  • Increased productivity is crucial for the morale of our team of A-players. No-one likes to spin their wheels and waste time. In a services business this has a direct impact on quality of work for clients and the bottom line.
  • Enhanced quality is essential. The ability to bring the discipline of fast iterations, frequent and disciplined communications and collaboration to our work has had a demonstrable impact on the quality of work product and results generated for our clients.
  • Increased visibility into projects immediately reduces risk. There is nowhere to hide inside our Agile Agency. We are accountable to ourselves and our clients. Our team knows that a snag or a new discovery is not a crisis, but the opportunity to iterate for improvement. We embrace these moments and support and lead our clients through, frequently gleaning new insights along the way.

I could go on and on. I’m a total geek for this stuff. I’ll own that.

At the start of the post, I mentioned some challenges and opportunities. It really boils down to what is a true clash of cultures between how SMG is (agile) and how the majority of our clients are (not terribly agile). So yes, this brings challenges. But it also brings incredible opportunity for us to lead and support our clients. SMG’s Agile Agency model is about being proactive, nimble and responsive and excellent collaborators and communicators. We strive to inspire our clients with our workstyle and our ability to turn-on-a-dime while producing great results.

I truly hope the agile business movement continues to gain traction and catch on. We are certainly spreading the word by bringing elements of agile business to our client engagements.  After all, in many ways, successful and sustained operations in social media requires an agile approach. The internet is anything but static.


(infographic: h/t Global Nerdy )