The Battle for Social World Domination: The Stacks : taking over your life

How do you get absolute control? That quest for world domination has been around for a couple of millennia. There are ways: become a dictator, a Kaiser, a God, Charlie Sheen, President of the United States or start a religion.

But there are other ways. 5 big companies are silently plotting their ways to world domination. They hide in the open, their battle so obvious that it stays hidden. Bruce Sterling, Sci-Fi writer, Visionary in residence and Transglobal Futurist exposed them already at his #SxSW2012 closing keynote:

“There is a new phenomenon that I like to call the Stacks; vertically integrated social media. And we’ve got five of them — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. The future of the stacks is basically to take over the internet and render it irrelevant. They’re not hostile to the internet — they’re just looking after their own situation. And they all think they’ll be the one Stack… and render the others irrelevant. And they’ll all be rendered irrelevant. That’s the future of the Stacks.

People like the Stacks, because the internet is scary now — so what’s the problem there? None of them offer any prosperity or security to their human participants, except for their shareholders. The internet has users. Stack people are livestock — ignorant of what’s going on, and moving from one stack to another. The Stacks really, really want to know you’re a dog.

They’re annihilating other media… The Lords of the Stacks. And they’re not bad guys — I’d be happy to buy them a beer. But really, a free people would not be so dependent on a Napoleonic mobile people. What if Mark Zuckerberg trips over a skateboard?

This structure won’t last very long… But you’re really core people for them and their interests. You are them. I’m them. And your kids are going to ask embarrassing questions about them. And there are voices here and there complaining about them, [like] Jonathan Franzen. He says Twitter is destroying literature. And he’s right. So don’t make fun of him. He’s telling the truth.”

What does it take?

Bruce has his way with words, and is passionate beyond suspicion. But is he right? Are Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft silently taking over our lives? What would it take, to achieve Social World Domination?

1.       Knowing where you are

Have you noticed it? That small side remark during Apples latest event? “We have our own maps now!”. So, maps are important. Knowing where you are, where you go, and how you get there gives the Stacks priceless information. That is why Google is happily mapping the whole planet, why Facebook is desperately trying to make its Places work (killing Gowalla as an afterthought). Apple just got its hands on the trusty Tele Atlas digital maps through its deal with TomTom. Microsoft nicely obtained direct access to the maps of Tele Atlas’s direct competitor Navteq, currently owned by… Nokia.

2.       Owning your hardware

So Microsoft got a lot more out of the Nokia deal than meets the eye. They have access to maps. But also, they secured an option on a vital world domination component: hardware.  After decades of software-only, Microsoft is desperately trying to get a bridgehead in hardware land. Through Nokia and HTC they aim for the smartphone, with the Surface they bring their technology into your living room, and their version of a tablet was announced last week.

Apple of course has a plethora of hardware devices, two of them sticking to your life as glue: the iPhone and the iPad. Google is making sweet eyes with Android, ensuring Google phones in every store. And tablets. Rumors of an upcoming  Facebook phone are all around…

Amazon has a hesitating first step into the hardware through its Kindle. You might not have noticed it, but Microsoft, Apple and Google  are even making it into the car…

3.       Owning your operating system

The heart, core and soul of your machine: your operating system. They own it. Apple and Microsoft obviously with their OS and Windows versions.  Google is quietly improving its Chrome OS.

Facebook  has hired enough brainpower with  Kean Wong,   Christopher Tremblay,  Georges Berenger, Li Fang,  Robert Boyce and Zachary Landau (top-notch specialists from Palm, Apple  and RIM) for an own mobile operating system and applications platform…  Amazon is doing unspeakable things with its Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and experimented with own versions of android.

4.       Owning your browser

The power lords have direct access to your online life through the browsers they own. Apple and Microsoft obviously through Safari and Explorer.  Google through its Chrome browser, Amazon is working on it with Silk, and Facebook is rumored trying to buy Opera Software  and its 200 million users worldwide of the Opera web browser.  Controlling the browser means controlling the internet history, and the internet behavior of the user. Controlling the browser means having the most intimate communication and marketing tool to influence people directly through their preferred web tool. Priceless.

5.       Owning your data, owning your search

Facebook, Youtube, Google,and Microsoft’s Bing. That is what people use to find what they are looking for: from social search, to factual search. Apple has no apparent own search engine, but is getting paid an amazing 1 billion dollar a year by Google to keep Google as the default Apple’s search.

With literally billions of user generated videos, pictures and texts hosted on their servers and platforms, and petabytes of personal data ready to be analyzed and data mined, the five power houses have more insights in consumer personality, profile, habits, spending behavior, and socio-environmental context than anyone else.  The combined stock value of the Stacks is only a fraction of what this goldmine in personal data is worth to seasoned marketers.

6.       Owning your cash

Amazon’s One Click Buying, Facebook’s credits, Apple’s iTunes and AppStore, Microsoft’s e-stores: the Stacks make it easy for you to spend money, or to get paid by third parties for anything you do online. Click on a sponsored link in Google generates hard cash. For Google. Not for you. Your online social life generates mountains of gold for Facebook. Apple is getting a whopping  30% on every paid application that gets downloaded from its AppStore . Amazon is getting a cut in every sale made through its notorious online long tail store.

7.       Owning your life

Quietly, the five Stacks are wrapping their mighty tentacles around the online consumers, sneaking their influence at the deepest caves of personal lives, thriving on direct hard cash and precious personal data that can (and will) be cashed in. The battle for World Supremacy is fought in the shadows, but it’s fought hard and relentless by young billionaires equally at ease on a skateboard, as in a corporate jet. It’s fought by mercenaries with great corporate hair, the whitest teeth you will ever see, and a lot at stake through their stock in the stack…

Bruce Sterling was right. Again. He always is ;-).

 

Facebook first? Think again…

 

Social Media Engagement is Not a Strategy

 

Social media marketers are keen to drive engagement but it may not necessarily be a viable strategy. In fact, it comes at a cost!

Source: www.slideshare.net

Social Media : ROI or RIP, yes, but by measuring what?

The question still pops up: what is the ROI of Social Media? It gives me slight nausea, tingling toes and a mighty nagging headache. Because the question is so wrong. What is the ROI of the internet? Of TV? Of electricity? Of reading a book? Meeting someone at a network event?  Gary Vaynerchuk  puts it even more direct and in context: – What is the ROI of your mother?

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in the New Age full Zen attitude of some die-hard social media ninja’s that murmur esoteric kabala citations and mellow truths à la it’s about the value of relationships: we all agree that is way too vague.

The question is wrong – The question should be: How will Social Media contribute my brand in achieving X. And X does not have to be sales by default and definition. It can be sales –absolutely- , but also shift of perception, education, creating conversation, gathering consumer input and insights, delivering costumer service, offering correct information within context, a call to action, shift of tone of voice, etc etc …

The starting point is wrong – Doing Social Media, and then start to wonder what the ROI will be, is a path to certain disaster.  The starting point should be linked to the direct DNA and core of your business, and to your business strategy: What is it you want to achieve: Sell more? Educate? Shift perception? Build alliances to influence? Interact with a fan base? If your social media endeavors do not mirror or contribute to your business strategy, there is no point in measuring your ROI: there will be none.  

The set-up is wrong – If you talk about social media, and social media teams, you are on the verge of an abyss of failure… social media should never stand by itself, nor be operated by an isolated team. It should be part of an overall business, marketing, communications and connections strategy. If Social Media is not woven throughout your marketing and communications organization, it is doomed to fail. Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) wrote an excellent book on Social Media ROI where he sketches the importance of weaving your social media strategy within the larger organizational and business strategy.

The expectations are wrong – Often, expectations are that within weeks thousands of fans will deliver the miracle that will save the quarterly results. Because, social goes viral, for free, and will double the business, no?. *deep sigh* Social Media is an interactive way of communicating that builds its return on investment in the middle to long run.  It’s not a miracle medicine to satisfy your shareholders.

The metrics are wrong – If you try to shift perception, measuring reach and eyeballs will simply not do the trick. However, in the media industry, the standard set up of measurement highlights GRP’s, touch points, eyeballs, and connection points.  To measure the ROI, we will have to walk the dog back by the tail, and provide measurement that measures what we intended to achieve: Did we change the perception? Did we sell more? Are people using or sharing our content? Does our engagement index go up? Did we move people to our event? One-size-fits-all data sets will simply fall short of measuring.

Social media is still great – But to give it full credit, it will require more work in defining exactly what we want it to do… and where it fits in our business strategy, and to accept that it is – by default- meant to be interactive.  

Fast Company phrases it nicely: “If you get bored with Social Media, it’s because you are trying to get more value than you create”.

Forget porn. Try a kiss. And go for it.

We live in a world of extremes. Bigger is better, faster is greater, more is needed and extremes pay off. Filmmaker Lars Von Trier pushed Charlotte Gainsbourg and some other actresses over the limits of porn-acting in his recent movie Aphrodisiac. Push red to add drama won international awards for over the top (inter) action.

Fashion models are starved, paint brushed, photo shopped and altered. Rap singers become gold chain swinging Lamborghini driving caricatures of themselves.

In an endless quest to please, lips are blown up with silicon, wrinkles ironed out with Botox, fat gets hovered out, breasts molded into gravity defying shapes. The poor youngsters that get confronted with internet porn (I’ve been told that can occasionally happen ;-)) get nervous seeing how double muscled supersized males with the stamina of a steam train go on for the better part of 120 minutes.  Not good for the self-image.

That’s why I was so taken aback by the instant internet hit of amateur filmmaker Tatia Pilieva. She captured, in crude black and white, a magic moment: the first kiss between two human beings.  It’s heartwarming to see how total strangers, adult and assertive people turn into hesitating youngsters in the blink of an eye. The nerve wrecking tension, the nervous laughter, and the I-do-not-know-what-to-do-with my hands: it’s all there.

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The tension is so tender, so spontaneous, it’s almost erotic.

And then: the cold shower: all this is a set-up, a sophisticated lie. Most of the participants are actors or models in a clever try to boost the clothing sales for Wren Studio.

But the magic happened. Tons of students, housewives, journalists, bloggers, even the Playboy bunnies have posted their own versions of the first kiss. A multitude of first kisses are kept for eternity. Watching them will put countless tender smiles on lots of faces.

There might be hope, after all ;-).

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Branded Content : when awesome simply works

Branded Content: two words that will get you full attention at the upcoming media end-of-year drinks. But what is it? Does it work? Is it worth investing in?

UM could tap into the great study that our international colleagues of the IPG Media Lab have conducted with the American business giant Forbes. 2259 visitors of the Forbes website got exposed to random versions of the website (clean, display bannering, branded content, display bannering branded content combo).  A post exposure test allowed analyzing the impact of the different flavors of branding and exposure to bannering and branded content.

The results crown branded content very convincingly as the clear winner. You can download the full report here.

 

Your Klout score? I really could not care less…

I was contacted months ago by a young girl who wanted to know my Klout score. She was making a list of important people to follow on twitter. It made me smile. When I answered that my Klout score is on klout.com (like everyone else’s) and that it hovers between roughly 55 and seventy-something depending on my mood, and the temperature of the seawater in Belgium, she got upset. Klout was important, and I was not taking her seriously.

I explained that the temperature of the seawater does have a determining effect on my Klout score. If it gets too cold, I migrate South, and stop tweeting for a while. My Klout thingy sinks accordingly like a stone with respiratory difficulties. If the temperature is ok, my mood gets better, I twitter chat with friends, spread some blog posts around, and my Klout score sours up.  That did not make her happy either.

Now, how can you determine if someone is important based on a yo-yo Klout score? Try walking up to somebody, and ask how important he is. Can you picture that? How do you define ‘important’? Is that a figure in two digits? Will he be more important tomorrow? Is he important because he has money? To whom is he important?

What does my Klout score tell you? Does it show you what people think about what I write? What impact my tweets/posts/musings have? Does it give a value on quality? Even on quantity? If so, in relation to what exactly? To my goals? Did the girl mean with ‘important’ influential? Influential on what topic? To what audience?

I have nothing against Klout.com.  It is a rating system amongst many. I do have something against conclusions hastily drawn from a two digit number that gets influenced by the temperature of seawater.

If you want to determine if someone is important, relevant, influential, you’ll have to rely on more than just an automated tool. You’ll have to analyze all kinds of data, you’ll have to sift through criteria, and you’ll have to put stuff in context. Content might be King, but contextual information is Queen.

There is no number that can tell you whether I am important or not. Only you can determine that.

Thank you for sharing this, it will benefit my Klout score…. :-).