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Back Up Your Online Stage Name With Authenticity

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We do it all the time.  We see an artist or actor and refer to him/her as her stage name.

Eminem is Marshall Mathers, Forrest Gump is Tom Hanks, Ocho Cinco is Chad Johnson.  And these stage names often carry online, mainly to keep the branding consistent.

For many though, operating under an alias and hiding real names allows people to operate covertly in online communities.  I've seen countless comments on blogs and professional newspaper sites with insightful comments but fictitious names.

However, social networks are cracking down on aliases.  Google+ for instance, prohibits users that sign up with stage names.  Facebook is also fighting to keep its platform authentic.

The web is all about realness.  I suggest if you have a nickname or stage name you like to go by that you link it to your true self.

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One Social Networking Language

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China is shaping social networking simply because of its mass and exploding mobile phone use.

Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has already hit 200 million users.  Even George Bush's brother is microblogging in Chinese on Weibo. I'm thinking of starting a Weibo account myself, using Google translate to put my words into Chinese.

At some point, both English and Chinese networks will connect seamlessly.  I'll be able to publish in English on Twitter, on my WordPress and Tumblr blogs, and have it disseminate to the world of English and Chinese speakers.

The Internet flattens previously disparate social networks to the point of synthesized and instant global communication.  The Internet will feel like one global social networking language.

Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness (Notes)

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During the Hurricane hoopla, I finished the latest Kindle single from the Domino Project, Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas.  

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Most Retweetable Time: 4PM
  • Weekend stories get shared more
  • Comments & views highest for stories published at 9-10 AM
  • Posts published 6-7AM get most links
  • Email is the ORIGINAL ONLINE SOCIAL MEDIUM and forwarding is the original retweeting
  • Email message sent at 5-6AM had highest click through rates
  • Messages sent on weekends had high click-through rates
  • People share ideas that reinforce their reputation
  • Humans are designed to imitate each other
  • People want to be the first person to share a post so identifying the # of shares may backlash
  • Tweets that tell people how they can do things and learn things do well
  • How To and Top 10 are attention grabbers
  • Myth: you can‚Äôt measure the return on investment (ROI) of Social Media

The Case For More Digital Books (Education)

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You don't need an Amazon Kindle to get access to cheaper college textbooks.  All you need is the Kindle app, available on PCs, Macs, Tablets, and Smartphones.  But what I want to see is the Kindle loaning program apply to textbooks too.

College textbooks are too expensive, especially the hardcovers.  I'd spend $1k on books per semester, only to save them at the end of the semester like I'd need them later on.  Nope.

The main reason I LOVE digital books is because they're cheaper, light and easily carried in one hand.  You don't even need a backpack.  The only problem is the lack of books, which publishers fear to digitize because they earn less money.  What about the savings on print and limitless inventory?

Thanks to Spotify, music is now accessible from anywhere with Internet access.  Nobody wants to OWN a file unless they want to keep it forever.  The same streaming capabilities should apply to books.  I'll pay 30 days to rent a book or pay at a discounted rate for 4 months use if it's a textbook.

American universities need to push digital and get with the future.  Education is expensive enough, let technology make books cheaper.

Content with the whole family

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 Content is KING. Steve Jobs recognized this all along and we'll miss his aggressive nature with the content owners.

Without a heavy stream of content in the Internet connected era, a piece of hardware stays on the shelf. Hardware owners live and die by the content they distribute.

Technology and the Internet gave birth to free, hurting content owners.  So, when Apple introduced iTunes to record labels the publishers acquiesced, turning digital music into a legitimate business.  As time went on, Apple developed other hardware pieces including the iPod, iPod touch, iPhone, and the iPad.  Consumers bought those devices so they could carry thousands of songs and other pieces of content in their pocket and buy songs on the go wirelessly.

But music content was just the beginning.  Movies, newspapers, books, and most importantly, apps (especially gaming apps), gave consumers a valid reason to buy a content storage and mobile hardware tool.

Apple also placed emphasis on personal creativity, turning people into amateur musicians, filmmakers, and photographers. ¬†These “amafessionals” used the apps on the Apple platform to promote their content online.

The synthesis of professional and personal content collections combined with free mobile marketing tools secured Apple's dominance as a hardware maker.  HP recently dropped its computer, Smartphone, and tablet business all together because of its lack of content.

Content creators make useful and engaging content for platforms in which you can monetize and get the most conversion.  Consumers buy the hardware that enables you to search, collect, create, and store that content.  Apple simply connected the creators to the consumers, and vice versa.

3 Reasons Facebook Entered Film

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Facebook is now selling online films from the major studios including Miramax, Warner Bros., Universal, and Paramount.  You can stream catalog movies like Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction for 30 credits, or $3.

With the world's biggest and arguably most connected online community, it's no wonder why Facebook feels confident about entering the movie rental space.

Monetization

Facebook made nearly $2 billion in 2010, mostly from advertising and virtual currency.  So it's no surprise that it's now licensing legitimate hit movie content to earn even more money.  Like iTunes, Facebook keeps about 30% off the retail price, which pays for the movie hosting and other fees.

Social

Movies are inherently social. ¬†When's the last time you enjoyed a movie by yourself? ¬†Cutting licensing deals with the major studios must have been fairly straightforward for Facebook. ¬†The sales pitch went something like this: ¬†”We have 750+ million users you can instantly plug into with the touch of an app. ¬†Just get us the assets in high-def and we'll take care of the rest.” ¬†Done deal.

Open Opportunity

There's really only two competitors in the online streaming space, iTunes and Netflix.  There are others like Amazon Instant Video and Youtube Movies but they started late and have been organically marketing them.  Hulu has also gained traction but has limited movie inventory and can't support enough ad space.  As you can see on the chart, there's room for a third online movie platform, with Facebook already placing third in video views in aggregate.

As you can see, Facebook is making a necessary and timely move into the film industry.  Given its user base and sharing capabilities, it can be competitive in this space.  But it should focus on its tablet distribution next, where portability and larger screens are more friendly to the eyes. Have you watched a movie on Facebook?  Please let me know in the comments. (photo by Photo Extremist)

3 Benefits of Digital Education

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When I graduated college, digital education was just expanding. Sure, there was the usual suspects who were already offering degrees online, Devry, Phoenix, etc. But digital education has really gone mainstream and everything from classes to the way we learn have changed.

Learn From Home

Today, you can learn in your underwear and get a superb education!  The best schools in the world offer classes online, including Harvard and MIT.  I took Online Music Marketing With Topspin 2 years ago and boosted my marketing knowledge.  The course was just like any physical course, extensive reading was required and there were forums to interact with students and the professor.  It was like being in class.

Of course, technology changes so rapidly a professor could easily use Hangouts on Google+ and have a full class discussion.  Discipline and student control is another issue.  If you act off, you should be deducted points, and if you participate and add value to the discussion you should get points, just like the show Around The Horn on ESPN.  Millennials love to acquire points thanks to social gaming apps Foursquare.

Holistic Learning

VC Fred Wilson recently¬†wrote¬†about the potential interlinking in digital books. ¬†I call it the ‘learn more' feature. ¬†For example, upon reading a book on your Kindle or iPad, you should be able to hover or highlight a word and learn more about it. ¬†If a book mentions Charles Darwin, I can pop out of the book and look at his bio or if it mentions a theory like Survival of the Fittest I can click outside the book and gather more information. ¬†These quick answers expand our knowledge and pique our interests. ¬†Interactive reading¬†is the future and it's coming soon.

Apps That Encourage Learning

The best part about digital technology is that it can be used to take notes and enhance learning.  Just yesterday I saw a young girl using Simplenote while listening to a podcast.  I asked myself:  Do future students even need to learn how to hand write?  There's also digital flashcards, which makes foreign language learning and all that rote memorization more convenient and fun.  iTunes just released a plethora of Back to School apps this week.  Teachers and students need to utilize the latest tools to encourage learning and studying.

But the best part apart the digital revolution is the information access and interconnectedness we now have.  You can stay atop of your interests simply by subscribing to blogs of your favorite niche.  You can even email or direct message experts if you have any questions.

Despite the online revolution, some of us will remain old school.  I still believe in showing up and meeting people face to face, whether it's work or school, and taking notes with a pad and pen to map out ideas and brainstorm.  Plus, confident leadership comes through real interaction just like in sports.  And you can't play sports digitally, at least yet.

Dying Is A Harsh Word, Try Digital Transition

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Record labels are dead. Book publishers are dead. Manufacturers are dead.

Relax, no one is dying.

What's “dying” is the physical piece of the business and the fact that if you're an artist, you can distribute and market your own content, keep the rights, and collect ALL the revenue.

Death is not the right word, a digital transition is more suitable. All the major companies impacted by digital must see the opportunity to make more money than ever, not in downloads and streams, but in leveraging their marketing funds to power the branding of their actions and sell other stuff. With today's social communication tools and direct to fan businesses, selling other stuff is a viable business.

  1. You can sell tickets to an event (a signing, a show, a meet and greet, an experience) using Eventbrite and promote it using your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  2. You can create an exclusive Instragram album via Blurb and sell 2k copies.
  3. You can put up a store on Etsy and sell your logo on products like t shirts and cups, all made through Cafepress.

Keep the content alive by chopping it up into different offline and online experiences. Let your fans own a piece of your story. Of course, as a Indie artist can do all this stuff without a major label or publisher.  But having a major backer or bank can give you the marketing push needed to build up a legitimate fan base.

BIG IDEA: The labels will continue to profit in the digital world, even more so than physical because now they own the rights to other stuff like merchandise, tickets, and experiences. The music or the book is now the promotional vehicle. The easiest way to grow a fan base is to get signed, release good content, and sell other products directly to fans. Again, you can do this as a solo artist but it will be MUCH MUCH harder.

The End of Control

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Social media is ERUPTING, starting revolutions in the Middle East, causing riots in London, and bringing communities of friends and fans together all over the world. Social media is free, democratic, and unstoppable.  Good or bad, social media puts an end to control.  Nevertheless, below are 3 ways to counteract the spread of and disguise of social media, and the backlash for each.

COMPLETE SOCIAL MEDIA SHUTDOWN

One way to shut down social communication is to completely BLOCK all Internet Service Providers.  Mubarak shut down Egypt, Gaddafi cut off Libya, and China tacitly pulls the plug in state emergencies.  Totalitarian governments own the media and try to dictate conversation.  But mandating a complete shutdown of Internet services makes tribes even stronger.  The people overthrew Mubarak and Gaddafi and bloggers criticized China for silencing the train crash that killed 39 people.  Scratching the itch only makes it worse.

CONTROLLED SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter, RIM, and Facebook met in London this week to discuss the impact of social media on the London riots.  The UK government and the social media representatives all agreed that a complete shutdown of social media is an attack on human rights.  But all parties did agree that people should use authentic Twitter user names, and put an end to dummy accounts used for secret communication.  Authenticity requirements backlash because it puts an end on parody accounts like @DaveChappelle and @jeff_thedude and test accounts.  I use test Twitter and Facebook accounts for marketing research.

CONTAINED SOCIAL MEDIA

The hardest but best way to operate social media is containment, the homeland security approach.  Basically, any Tweets or Facebook messages that promote some type of dangerous activity should be warned and blocked after three strikes.  Big brother social media is quiet and effective because it disrupts suspicious activity and leaves regular conversation untouched.  The backlash for policing social media and establishing rules is that users would simply find other means to communicate virally, just like BitTorrent which bypasses networks altogether and allows direct/seeding communication.

Despite efforts to shut down, control, and contain social media, social media persists in full fashion.  Social media is an indispensable tool for communication.  The only way to fight free discussion is to build legitimate systems around it and warn accounts that promote violence. What do you think?  Can governments effectively control social media without being too pervasive?  Let me know in the comments!

4 Companies Disruption Education

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Start up companies are transforming education online, giving people unfettered access to peer networks that allow insight previously only available within home or the school network. Below lists 4 companies leading the way in digital education:

1.  Skillshare

Learn anything from anyone.” ¬†Skillshare is a peer university, giving classes ranging from Arts & Entertainment to Technology & Internet. ¬†The classes are much more in line with the realities we face in life and you can pick, pay, and attend selected classes with other like-minded folks.

2.  Reelapp

“Get your ideas online and start reeling in the feedback.” ¬†Upload a doc, presentation, or image into Reel and share the link via Twitter or to targeted people and get instant feedback on your work. ¬†At this time, the platform is limited to likes and dislikes but expect the company to enable comments in the near future.

3.  Uncommonapp

“Helping you build an uncommon application.” ¬†Uncommon App is a paid service that offers High School students professional feedback on their essays and resumes for the college application process. ¬†You can select from different packages including personal consultation and online, and attend free workshops.

4.  Hoot.me

“Connect with your friends to work on homework and projects.” ¬†While it's in its early stages, Hoot allows you to connect with your Facebook friends on homework.

As you can see, digital education is disrupting traditional education by offering more robust peer collaboration.

Overnetworked or Hungry For More?

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The social space is heating up and frustrating users, as evinced in the Google+ music video.

For example, Google+ announced yesterday that it'll be rolling out 16 games on its social networking platform, including games by Zynga. Should one play Texas Holdem through Facebook or through Google+?

With over 750+ million users, Facebook IS the social media hub.  Marketers will continue to flock to Facebook and build up fan bases.  But Google+ is growing faster than any other social network even though it remains open to personal accounts only.

Google+is attracting users because it makes it much easier to categorize people into circles. ¬†Unlike Facebook, not everyone is a “friend.” ¬†Google+ also makes it easy to target specific circles with content relevant to that circle, contrary to Twitter where ¬†your tweet goes public. ¬†For example, I wouldn't want to share my feelings about soccer with everyone, just those who care, those in my soccer circle. ¬†And I could go into deeper niches of soccer if I wanted to.

Each platform therefore requires a different strategy, all revolving around shareability.

Facebook sharing works because you TRUST your friends recommendations.  Twitter sharing works because you follow only those you find interesting and the Retweet and hashtag trends can make content more viral.  Google+ sharing works because it's both personal and public, a merger of Facebook and Twitter.

Social media fatigue is natural given the plethora of networks, but contrary to popular opinion, if used correctly, social media can help you connect to others.  And the public platforms like Twitter and Google+ can lead you to answers and further pique your learning interest.  And if you just want to socialize, you can do that too!

Back to Square One

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I used the Square app for the first time yesterday. It worked like a charm and it was easy to email the receipt. I'm still waiting for the money to hit my account.

The Square makes everyone feel like an Apple employee. When you buy from the Apple store, they use iPhones to swipe your card for payment.

Square technology is what I call a “temporary technology,” a new advancement that points to the future while having not completely solved the present.

I have the same feelings about Square as I do Turntable.fm, the potential is there but the concept needs to be marketed and perfected.

Welcome Apple. At some point, Apple is going to embed buying/selling into the iPhone, becoming a feature not an app. Apple is the king of liberating people into creative professionals, making it easy for the passionate to become a musician through Garageband or make a sleek presentation through Keynote. The belief is that everyone should have access to the same tools.

Behind every niche idea is an even bigger company that can blow it up. The best companies back research and development coupled with high marketing expenditure. Give a lot and get a lot back.

Have you ever used Square? Drop me a note or tweet me about your experience.

To Ramble on China, or To Gamble on China

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One just has to read The New York Times today to get a sense of China's rise and America's demise.

On economics and wealth, Chinese Investment Grows in New York City

On travel and Sinocization, As Chinese Visit Taiwan, the Cultural Influence Is Subdued

On freedom of the press, China Releases a Blogger, Ran Yunfei, With Conditions

On military, China Tests First Aircraft Carrier at Sea

Meanwhile in the US, Financial Turmoil Evokes Comparison to 2008 Crisis

What we're seeing is eerily similar to the rise of Japan in the 80s (so I've studied) and that we should fear for US primacy.

Bu I'm more interested about the rise of China in a Smartphone driven, hyper connected, and social media world.

I think increased digital communication tools and global platforms enhance globalization and in the case of China, force it to be more open.  BUT when it comes to raw power, military strength and intelligence, I believe that realism still exists underneath the guise of globalization, and that when it comes down to it, nation states compete and will throw their weight around the world as needed.

China is rising in a world of contradictions:

  • China enjoys communist rule, the West cherishes democracies
  • China is a communist economy, the West praises capitalism and openness
  • China supports rogue nations, the West disdains terrorists and potential nuclear nations
  • China saves, the West spends

Marketing forces will change China as it emerges from a quiet state that was once was the world's oyster to number 1, which will force it to show political, economic, and military maturity.  In short, it should be more like the West.

Social Media Does It Again

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London is the latest city to witness the speed of social mobilization. If the Middle Eastern countries are able to spark protests despite limited bandwidth and a crackdown on social networks, imagine a Western city with Internet freedom, smartphone and Internet ubiquity. The London riots spread quickly through Facebook, Twitter, and BBM.  Increased communication and coordination creates its own firestorm through technology. BUT, as rapidly as word spreads can also be the reason actions come to an abrupt end.  It works like this:

  1. Social media sparks the event.  Mobilization travels quickly.
  2. Social media discusses the event through pictures, words, and videos.  People show care, even Wayne Rooney.  The news goes global.
  3. Social media puts an end to the stir by calling up mobilization of a counter measure, aka the police.

And now, thousands of volunteers are using social media to help clean up the streets.  The ability to market and mobilize people for action, good or bad, is now easier than ever because social networks hit so many people.

Nothing New, TV Ad Revenues Up

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The major networks including NBC, CBS, and ABC are confident about television ad revenues despite the bad economy.  Current profits justify the optimism.

But I don't think TV revenues are up because TV advertising necessarily works.  TV revenues are up for three reasons:

  1. Because Internet television is still in its infancy.  Hulu can't sell enough ads quickly enough.
  2. Because advertisers feel like they KNOW TV, getting awareness and proven measures for money well spent.
  3. Because advertisers are used to it.  The thought goes why spend money on print media with less circulation and Internet media which is pricey and still unproven.

TV works because advertisers know how to do it and can see the awareness impact on sales.  Nothing is a mirage.  But TV on the Internet analytics will improve and online TV spending with grow with it.  It has to.  We live in an attention economy where computer screens and mobile phones reign.