Wisdom of the Crowds on the Street – Picks Stocks!

Written by on September 27th, 2009

Find out what others are saying about your company or product!

Daily I see more products and services that automatically search the web for people talking about products, services, issues and then aggregates this information and delivers it back to me in a variety of methods to help me make decisions.

So what do you do with that information?

Well in the case of the stock market, you can take mentions of companies, analyze the mentions as positive or negative and then graphically display for others to interpret and use to make a better decision.

Interesting way this blog started.

I wrote a blog article about the “wisdom of the crowds” and the next day a tweet showed up in my Twitter account:

@Philabaum Check outhttp://www.piqqem.com for another example of wisdom of crowds.

Wow, pretty smart!  Did the system automatically find me and post that information, or is someone sitting at a computer somewhere in the world being delivered mentions of words, concepts and ideas who then puts a human spin to them and who then sends the message off?

In my case this really worked.

Not only was I intrigued, I followed the link to the product piqqem and signed up!

Think about how you could use Twitter to watch for mentions of terms and keywords that might identify who you are, what your customers like, attitudes and or locations.    You too could have a business process that would deliver frightenly  fast and relevant information to people who are out there talking about services they like or need.

I’m just starting to get a handle on this.  Would love to know your take!

Netflix uses Crowd Sourcing to Increase Revenue

Written by on September 22nd, 2009

Over the past year I’ve been watching the drama unfold in the  Netflix one million dollar contest.

Netflix spent millions writing software code that would analyze their customer interests and likes and then use that information to recommend movies they would like.  If I give a thumbs up to the movie The Terminator, along with a number of sci-fi movies, the program will present me with additional movies that match what I am interested in..

The Netflix philosophy is simple.  The more movies I see that I like, the more I will order.

In October of 2006, Netflix caught onto the “wisdom of the crowds” thing and developed a contest that offered a million dollar prize for the individual or group that could improve the inhouse software they had developed.  (called Cinematch).

The winner would design a software program that would be 10 percent more effective and take away a million dollar prize.

The three year event has kept many in suspense, received a great deal of publicity and attention and has gone a long way to help their customers understand their passion to better serve them.  As a Netflix user, it caught my attention!  And to the participants who put hundreds of hours into the project, they just couldn’t let go.

The program started out with individuals around the world working on the problem on their own.  Then an interesting thing happened.  Individuals’ realized they didn’t have the expertise in areas that others who were actively working toward the solution had.  They realized they needed to merge or they were out of the race.  And as time continued, after one or two people came together, groups started coming together.   A group that realized they were slightly behind another team, then merged with a team that had code that would give them another 2 percent advantage.   And so it went until on Monday a seven person team of statisticians, machine -learning experts and computer engineers which called themselves the BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos was announced the winner of the one million dollar prize. (…More…)

Wisdom of the Crowds – Concept will Change Your Business

Written by on June 28th, 2009

The first business I started while in college, I called Aardvark Studios.

I’ve never been very creative when it comes to naming a business so after days of searching for the right name, Aardvark stuck.   We took pictures of graduates when they received their diplomas on graduation day, and then mailed a free proof to each graduate, giving them an opportunity to order enlargements.  By the time I sold the business, 25 years later, we were photographing about 200,000 graduates each year.

So I had to laugh when I saw a story in the New York Times about a company founded in 2007 called Aardvark.    The firm was jumping into the online advice business, the same business that Microsoft’s new Bing has entered, Hunch and Yahoo’s Answers.  Aardvark’s twist however is it’s among the first that provides an intelligent way to reach out to authorities on subjects within your circle of friends.

The second thing that makes Aardvark different from others is the answers are created real time and specific to your question only.   When you pose a question like:

  1. What wine goes good with chicken?
  2. What’s the best grad school for someone interested in marketing?
  3. What’s the best computer for my 15 year old daughter?
  4. Where do I go when I visit Italy this year?
  5. Which mower should I get to mow an acre of fairly flat land?
  6. What do I have to look out for when I buy a new car?

Aardvark fires out the question through your Facebook friends and their friends and then delivers the response to you through your IM.

What it tries to do is target those with the best chance of answering the question.   Instead of blasting the question to everyone you know, it sends a limited number at a time so not to over burden the entire system.   It also utilizes information from other social networking profiles to match interests, demographics characteristics and other factors.

If no one answers a question, Aardvark continues to broaden the group of people until it gets an answer for you.  If you are like me a response usually invokes additional questions so Aardvark enables the person asking the question to respond to the person who answered it with additional questions.

Like any other tool, the more people that use it the more powerful it will become.  When you sign up,  you will be asked to share 3 areas you are knowledgeable  on.  This helps the system know which type of questions to send to you.

So how will this change your business?

This kind of tool will affect how your products and services are sold.  Consumers will still be influenced by advertising but they will learn to go to their network for advice on which product to buy.  It will help your staff find quick answers from others within your company.   The world is getting increasingly more complex.  A tool like this will help your staff reach out to others in and outside your business to gain quick answers to problems they are facing.

And if you are looking for a job, it will instantly put you in touch with the right people who can help you!

The end result is, decisions will be made faster, based on more experience.

So I have one question to ask Aardvark.   When I owned my photography business, nearly every week, someone asked me, “Why did you name your company Aardvark?”

So Aardvark, “Why did you name your business Aardvark?”

Should You Advertise in the Yellow Pages?

Written by on December 16th, 2008

Hedge your bets and do online and Yellow Page advertising

It happens every fall!

Just as the birds fly south for the year, the salmon swim up river to spawn, there is a certain time of year when a new edition of the Yellow Pages are produced and handed out.

They are dropped in apartments, homes and delivered to mailboxes.  A few months ago, my wife came back from our rural post office and told me that Brian, (local postal employee) had to put out an extra bin to handle the Yellow Page books being thrown away by the PO Box holders.  The Yellow Pages for decades was a powerful, and in some cases the only affordable tool for small business owners to advertise their business. Getting in the Yellow Pages was the first thing a business owner did!

But the world is different today.   Consumers behavior is being changed by the Internet.  Because of broadband, their computers are always on and they are learning to search for what they want, when they want and read reviews their neighbors have made about the companies and products they are interested in.  

The investment industry has taken notice of these changes and as a result the shares of two of the industry leaders, R.H. Donnelley and Idearc, have fallen 99 percent in the last year.   Ouch!

And there are predictions that their revenue is going to drop.  According to an article by Emily Steel for the Wall Street Journal:

Print and online ad spending on yellow pages will plummet 6.3% next year, more than double the rate of decline expected for broadcast TV, according to forecasts by Wachovia analyst John Janedis.

So if the Investment community smells a fire, why are small business owners still paying for ads in a book that not only gets thrown away, has more competition than ever and is being replaced by consumers whose behavior is being changed by the convenience of online search engines, like Google and Yahoo.

The Yellow Page industry is reporting more value for your advertising dollar!

(…More…)

Is Video Advertising Right for YOUR Business?

Written by on December 9th, 2008

One video ad can be re purposed on many different websites

Truman Show

I spent a greater portion of my business career in the photography industry. In my letters and marketing materials I repeated the time worn phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Now that we are living in a video world, the common person has nearly as many ways to capture the moments of their lives as Jim Carrey’s Truman Bank character in The Truman Show. Today, a video is worth 10,000 words.

Online video advertising is giving marketers another opportunity to reach targeted audiences with their messages. According to Borrell Associates, streaming audio and video ads now account for 19 percent of local online revenue and will rise to 59% by 2013.

Most marketers are having hard time thinking about adding video to their marketing tool chest for one reason: because in their mind, it’s still a very expensive and time-consuming marketing tool. They also have little to no experience with it, so they avoid it.

Video Advertising is as easy as 1,2,3

However, the Internet is changing all of that. Not only can anyone with a webcam, video cell phone, or simple video camera create a video and upload it to a Web site, it can be done within a matter of an hour without a budget! Sure, you can spend a great deal more time and energy at it, but I’m trying to break down some walls here and get you thinking about keeping it simple stupid! (…More…)

Can Facebook Deliver Leads to Your Business? YES!

Written by on November 30th, 2008

Facebook Add

What would 580,000 advertising impressions do for your business?

Al Gore gets kidded for suggesting he invented the Internet.  Around my house I get teased for suggesting to my kids that I invented Facebook.

Back in 1996, I created an online community for students and called it StudentAccess.  We modeled the community around GeoCities and Tripod with a focus only on college students.  We provided a free home page, email address and photo upload.  We ran ads in student magazines around the country and anxiously waited for students to show up.  Nobody came!   Not only was it a total failure, but I ended up getting sued by Princeton Review for using the name Student Access! (They had a line of books called StudentAccess to Law, Medical, etc.)  Thirty thousand dollars later, we surrendered the URL studentaccess.com to Princeton Review and decided to focus in a different direction.

Fast forward 7 years and Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, which has become one of the largest – online communities in the world.    Enough old boy stories,  let’s get back to the reason you are reading this post. (…More…)

Facebook API for a Pizza Shop?

Written by on November 26th, 2008

4 benefits of adopting a Facebook API for your business!

Over the past 3 years, I’ve had 1500 people attend webinars who were interested in figuring out how to use Pizza Hut FacebookFacebook in their businesses and organizations.  I like to remind people that Facebook is the new Yellow Pages and in fact it’s probably, like MySpace could be considered the largest phone book in the world.

In the spring of 2007 Facebook announced their Facebook Platform, a programming and business strategy that gave any organization the ability to create a program that would enable them to engage and interact with customers, prospects and others.  Colleges have an incredible opportunity to connect and engage with prospective students, students, fans, supporters and alumni but none are taking advantage of it.

But businesses, who understand you have to innovate to make a profit and work to keep customers due to competition, get it!

Pizza Hut is no stranger to utilizing social media tools to engage customers. Their Facebook page now has over 300,000 fans and to attract more, they offered anyone who became a Pizza Hut fan (through the end of the year) would be eligible for the weekly prize of a $50 gift card. (…More…)

Your Website Should Provide an EXPERIENCE!

Written by on November 22nd, 2008

Do your visitors leave your website talking?

Four Bells

Jimmy Hendrix emblazoned in the minds of nearly every Boomer who listened to FM radio in the late sixties the phrase,  “Are You Experienced”.   A generation of youth wandered the country trying to figure out what experience Jimmy, the new king of Rock and Roll was talking about.  Was he talking about drugs, love or dropping out!

Later, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore put a new definition to experience in their book,  “The Experience Economy”.  This is one of my favorite books, a must read for ANY business professional.  In their book, Joseph and James remind businesses that consumers are willing to pay MORE for an experience. They point out examples of businesses that are in commodity markets who charge a premium price simply by adding a unique “experience”.  The lessons learned from this book could position you ahead of your competitors and ahead in your bank account too!

Stay with me, I’m going to give you an experience that will make you RICH! (…More…)

Army Social Media Strategy? Why NOT you!

Written by on November 18th, 2008

You could recruit new leads, JUST like the Army!

Straight From Iraq

I was aware that the Army had been investing in some of the smartest and most sophisticated weapons in the history of mankind but little did I realize that part of the 220 million dollars they spend to recruit new soldiers will be spent on social media!

The other day I shared with you how a little known business consultant’s podcast became as popular as the business podcasts produced by the Economist, Bloomberg and other well known brands.  Today I wanted to show you how the Army is investing in WEBCASTING to become more relevant to their prospective customers.

In an article in the New York Times by Stuart Elliott, Stuart outlines the new strategy being used by the Army.   On their newly redesigned website, www.goarmy.com recruits will be able to view a new section called Straight from Iraq.   According to Lt. Gen. Benjamin C.  Freakley, the commanding general of the Army Accessions Command in Fort Monroe, Va, the goal is to provide,  “verifiable information about what being a soldier is really like”.

YouTube style videos

The section offers dozens of YouTube style videos of less than a minute where soldiers talk about the conditions they are living and working in.  The videos remind prospective recruits they have access to computers, the internet and “all the equipment” they need. (…More…)

Twitter as a Marketing Tool for YOUR Business?

Written by on October 24th, 2008

Stock brokers, real estate agents, sales people, physicians, service and retail industries can use twitter to reach and engage customers!

Twitter LogoMany consultants, authors and individuals are using Twitter as a personal branding tool.   By following others and commenting on what is happening in their lives they hope to build their own following  hoping it will increase their social media stature and brand.

So how are businesses like yours using it?

I was developing a marketing strategy recently and ran across the website namethis.com It’s a tool that includes online community and social networking tools to access the wisdom of the crowds to help you name products and services.  Their motto is quite simple, “three world-validated names for your thingamajib in 48 hours.

When someone like you or I need help in naming a product, we simply pay 99 bucks and wait 48 for the top three names as determined by the participants in the online community. The creative community sits back and waits for you or someone else to throw out a naming opportunity.   It’s really an amazing process to watch as people from all over the world come forward to give you their input and suggestions.   (…More…)

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