Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

The O’Reilly Brouhahahaha! Also, the BLOB & YOU?

I waited for all the commotion to subside before I gave vent to my inner feelings on the O’Reilly fiasco but then I realized Dave Winer has expressed my thoughts much better than even I could have in an earlier post of his.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it (Where have you been hiding all along?), here’s the plot summary:

Tom Raftrey a.k.a Tom (IT@Raftrey)
Tim O’Reilly a.k.a Tim (O’Reilly Media)
The Blog-mob a.k.a the BLOB
The Bloggers

Scene 1: Tom organizes a web 2.0 conference and invites Tim to participate. Tim declines respectfully and later his organization (CMP) sends Tim a cease-and-desist letter since “use of the term ‘Web 2.0’ was a ‘flagrant violation’ of their trademark rights”.

Scene 2: Tim outs that on the web leading to what is known as the First War of the Bloggers (circa 2006), leading to the rise of the blog-mob a.k.a the BLOB.

Scene 3: A few of The Bloggers, decide to look at this whole situation rather objectively. Here are a couple of my favorites: Nick Carr’s take on Open-Source Trademarks and Dave Winer’s response that surely reflects my thinking.

Climax: Utter commotion finally results in a belated response from Tim O’Reilly where he: (1) apologizes to Tom for the lawyer’s letter, (2) asks Tom for an apology for raising a hue-and-cry!?, and (3) explains to the “blog-mob” (BLOB) how the copyright act works.

End of Act I: “Web 2.0 conferences” (there’s really nothing anyone can do about this; this is how copyright act works) goes to O’Reilly Conferences, and “Web 2.0” goes to the blog-mobs (BLOBs)!

Lessons to be learned:
(1) We, Bloggers ought to have a set of standards by which we blog. I agree with Scoble when he thinks out loud on “How do I keep true to myself in a world that values (and uses) those who have audiences“?

(2) Let’s apply the laws of journalism. Let’s verify the authenticity of our statements before we blog. Apparently, somebody’s listening!

How does it relate to marketers:
(1) Marketers who blog, create wikis, etc… must understand the serious implications that copyright law has extended into this unchartered terrain. This will hold good especially for bloggers from Fortune 500 companies who have a lot more at stake through their web 2.0 actions. For those of you who are more interested in learning more about copyright law, check out the weblog of Lawrence Lessig – Professor of Law, Stanford Law School. Add his blog to your blogroll so others can benefit from it as well.

(2) From a brand perspective, I think we’re all clear on the damage that all this has had on the “O’Reilly” brand as enunciated by the man himself.

This controversy is also bad for my most important brand, my own name, especially since O’Reilly and not CMP is taking all the heat!

Make no mistake, my blogger friends, YOU are a brand and YOUR BLOG is your brand ambassador. So follow the rules of professionalism that you so well follow in your day-job and follow the same rules of branding that you’d apply to any product/service. Here are two very interesting articles on “Brand You” that appeared in the magazine – Fast Company (their blog):
(i) The Brand called You
(ii) Brand You Survival Kit

Keep blogging and keep branding your good name… and don’t forget to re-invent yourself when you/your blog get/s boring.

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Web 2.0 Marketing = Drucker’s idea?!

I’m sure most marketers have known, read and idolized Peter Drucker – the Michael Jordan among marketing practitioners. I’m curious to see how Drucker defined marketing and how all the new-fangled ideas of web 2.0 marketing actually parallel his thought process.

Drucker’s take on Marketing: “Business has two basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

Drucker’s take on marketing communications: “For centuries, we have attempted communication ‘downward’. This however, cannot work, no matter how hard and how intelligently we try. It cannot work, first, because it focuses on what we want to say. It assumes, in other words, that the utterer communicates. There can be no communication if it is conceived as going from ‘I’ to ‘thou.’ Communication works only from one member of ‘us’ to ‘another.’” – (via FusionBranding: How to Forge Your Brand for the Future, by Nick Wreden, via Evelyn Rodriguez in a 04 post on her blog). Thanks, Evelyn.

Let’s just take the state of marketing communications within a Fortune 500 company. I’m sure we’ve all seen numerous brochures, customer evidence/customer reference programs that aim to communicate “downward”. Agreed until now, the opportunities to communicate in parallel or between prospects was minimal, but things are changing, thanks to web 2.0.

Imagine the potential to communicate from “one member of us to another”, which I interpret as from one prospect to another. So contrary to the company posting it’s successes via a customer success story, what’d be better if a current customer touts the company’s success in a credible & authentic manner via a third-party. Yes, I mean third party. My first thought process is how about setting up an extensive “Wikis Project” where your customers & prospects get a chance to interact. Wikis as many of you know (popularized by Wikipedia) is defined as a “type of website that allows users to add, remove, or otherwise edit all content, very quickly and easily”

Costs for a Fortune 500 company: Free. Some of the advanced packages charge a nominal fee annually.
Benefits: (i) Archiving of prospects and customers thoughts’ on your product/service, (ii) let your golden-customers convince your prospects of the benefits of your product/service, (iii) help and be helped – prospects are always looking for credible info on your products/services. Be a focal point for their information needs, (iv) earns the trust of your prospect, and (v) communicate effectively – the way Drucker envisioned it!

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RSS 101 for Marketers

I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what’s all the hype over Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and how it applies to my specific brand of marketing. Interestingly enough, over the past few months, I have come across a fair number of marketers and practitioners who have been interested in knowing about RSS in as little time as possible. So, here are the basics of RSS Marketing: (i) Intro to RSS, (ii) Benefits of RSS, and (iii) Additional RSS reading

So here goes –

(i) Intro to RSS: Wikipedia defines RSS as “a family of web feed formats, specified in XML and used for Web syndication. RSS is used by (among other things) news websites, weblogs and podcasting

Now, for a marketer who has dabbled in direct marketing, web marketing and email marketing, RSS Marketing is no different. Really Simple Syndication or RSS is nothing more than another delivery mechanism to get your marketing message across to your target audience. Think of it as the fourth wheel (mail, web, email + RSS) in your channel mix.

(2) Benefits of RSS: Here are my Top 3 reasons why your target audience is going to love RSS, and therefore why you are going to adopt it:

(i) CANNOT-SPAM tool: How many times have your email marketing campaigns gone awry because of your consideration of the CAN-SPAM act. RSS is a reliable indicator of the warm leads in your lead qualification process, since ONLY interested prospects sign up. Actually, they don’t even have to sign-up. Anyone with a RSS reader can add your feed with the click-and-drag of their mouse without ever giving away even a single bit of info about themselves. Anonymity for your user, a great tool to track warm leads for the marketer. Seth Godin couldn’t agree more – this is the ultimate realization of Permission Based Marketing.

(ii) Search Engine Marketing on steroids: How many times have you as a marketer hoped that your product or service comes out on top when your prospect searches for info on a search engine?
Here’s an easy way to do that. RSS feeds are nothing more than XML code that get easily indexed by search engine crawlers and spiders (sounds creepy but true). Here’s a great way for you to crawl all the way to the top on top of your competition – all by just creating a blog and generating a RSS feed for it.

(iii) Easy and measurable: Setting up a RSS feed is the easiest thing possible (more details below) but on top of that it’s also measurable. Services like feedburner make it super-easy for you to set-up a feed and on top of that they enable you to measure important metrics like membership, readership and click-throughs. Here’s a Feed 101 tutorial on Feedburner.

Also, check out a similar piece on “Why is RSS important?” by Phil Gomes (VP, Interactive Solutions at Edelman) in an iMedia Connection article that mirrors some of my observations.

(3) Additional Resources on RSS: Given below are two major resources on RSS that you’d find extremely informative.

(i) The Ultimate Guide: If you want to learn every nuanced aspect there is to know about RSS, then Rok Hrastnik’s comprehensive guide to RSS. It gives detailed descriptions on how RSS can be used by marketers and publishers. I purchased the e-book for $49 myself and can assure you that it answered all questions I had on RSS marketing.

(ii) The Technical Guide: If you wish to get all-technical on RSS and want to learn the XML code that works the magic behind RSS, then go no place other than your friendly, online neighborhood – Wikipedia, the single website that I have benefited most since the advent of the internet. Check out the Wikipedia page on RSS that gives you all the tech-speak.

Also, I thought I should highlight two important articles on RSS that you would surely find useful.

The first is a 7-step RSS Marketing Plan that was published in MarketingProfs by none other than Rok Hrastnik – the RSS expert.

The second is an iMedia Connection article “Tips on Marketing with RSS” by Bill Flitter, CEO of Pheedo who co-incidentally will be speaking at a SVAMA workshop on “Marketing with RSS/Blogs” organized by us – the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Marketing Association (SVAMA) on 06/06/06.

Do join us if you’d like to learn more about how you could incorporate RSS into your marketing mix.

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The best of…marketing blogs/RSS feeds

One of the steps towards becoming a blogger yourself is to become an avid reader of blogs. I for one, can say that reading blogs & RSS feeds has completely changed the way I look at news. It’s like the TiVo of the Web and my RSS reader -Wizz RSS does a fabulous job of that. If you run the Firefox browser, this would be my pick for RSS reader. If you want more information on RSS feeds and how to subscribe, check out my mini-tutorial above that says “subscribe”.

If you read blogs relentlessly, you’d soon realize that the really good ones are few and far in between. Here’s my homage to the marketing blogs/RSS feeds that have truly made a difference and added value to my browsing experience along with the reasons as to why they appeal to me.

My Top 3 favorite Marketing/PR Blogs:

1. Guy Kawasaki: His marketing blog is undoubtedly the best of its kind. It’s had a meteoric rise within the Technorati rankings (which for the uninitiated is the primary indicator of how popular you are on the blogosphere – check out the Technorati 100). The reason I love his blog, is because it has useful nuggets of information on marketing, best practices, top 10 lists, that can be easily absorbed and will be of importance to every marketer.
Guy Kawasaki’s blog link
Guy Kawasaki blog’s RSS Feed
My “current” favorite 3 Kawasaki posts: Top 10 lies of marketers, Hindsights, and Book Review: Influence – Science & Practice.

2. Steve Rubel: of Edelman fame, has a neat blog on how social software is transforming PR. Kind of around concepts similar to my own blog, but Steve being who he is has created a neat cornucopia of ideas that every pr guy can learn from.
Steve Rubel’s Blog link
Steve Rubel blog’s RSS feed
My favorite Rubel posts: Fishing for the meaning of word-of-mouth, Magic T of Marketing, and I like companies that say “We Suck”

3. Michael Arrington’s Tech Crunch: If you’re in the Silicon Valley & if you’re into web 2.0 there’s no way that you may have missed Tech Crunch. Since I’m into business development myself tech crunch offers me a great way to keep a tab on the pulse of the web 2.0 world. What’s cool is that there are so many web 2.0 start ups that could offer incremental improvements over the way we currently look at marketing communications such as within the customer references space alone. Keeping tab of these start-ups with Tech Crunch is a great way to keep yourself informed on the benefits you can create for your own marketing program.
Tech Crunch Blog link
Tech Crunch’s RSS feed link
Favorite web 2.0 startups for marketers, as profiled on Tech Crunch: Squidoo-Seth Godin’s Purple Albatross, Improve yourself with Mecanbe, State of web 2.0 (a year ago – 2005)

Hope these 3 links were of help. I’d surely keep updating my top 3 finds within marketing and tech blogs as and when I find them.

Hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend – 2006!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Steve likes sucky companies – Really?

Steve Rubel – senior marketing strategist and one of the most influential bloggers in the world, said on his blog “Micro Persuasions” that he loves companies that accept their suckiness. Who am I to question, Steve? Well, but that’s the beauty of the blogosphere — even I can question Steve.

I kind of understand Steve’s perspective on how important it is for a company to be transparent enough to accept their shortcomings so as to IMPROVE, but I think the focus should be on the IMPROVEMENT, not the SUCKINESS. No wonder, Nick Carr (whose recent posts have been controversial – check out his post on the death of wikipedia) responds as to why he thinks that accepting suckiness is baloney.

On reading Steve’s entire post, I get his point-of-view when he concludes that:

If XYZ company is going to turn me around – and others as well – they are going to have to not only listen to what the community is saying but also apply it…and fast.

I’d have to agree with Steve on that one – especially the fast part, but the goal should always be to prevent rather than cure. The Truth, my friends, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it wins you respect from your customer for honesty, but on the other hand it also may alienate your prospects and may lead them to believe in your inferiority vis-a-vis your competition.

Either way, with a post that pretty much says Steve loves companies that suck; i think it got the attention it deserves but also a controversy that it didn’t deserve.

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Yes! I do blog. I finally succumbed to the temptation of starting a conversation in the blogosphere with the hopes of engaging my peers from the sales, marketing and PR communities in the high-tech industry on how to adapt to the changing dynamics of web2.0 to better communicate with our target audiences.

My experience in sales/marketing as well as my membership on the board of American Marketing Association (SVAMA), gives me unique insight into a broad swath of marketers (academics as well as professionals). Being in the Silicon Valley provides a unique insight into the rapidly evolving web 2.0 arena of social software. I bet there are similar blogs out there, but I'd like to specifically address the high tech industry. This blog is an attempt to marry the two components of technology and marketing, in an attempt to rationalize the future of marketing communications for the high tech industry.

I'd encourage you to participate in discussions with your comments so we could all learn as we go. Special thanks go out to Jeremiah Owyang – web strategist (check out jeremiah's blog here) who was particularly helpful in my taking the decision to plunge into the blogosphere. Thanks, J.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar